Duration: 1 calendar year (46 weeks) full time

The MA Conservation Studies equips you with the high level specialist skills sought by the conservation sector. The focus is on research through practice, drawing on conceptual, theoretical and critical aspects of the field. This is a rigorous programme that runs concurrently with the Postgraduate Diploma and involves delivery of a major research project.

You will follow one of these specialisms (below) for Postgraduate Diploma, transitioning onto the MA:

You can expect

  • To undertake research through practice
  • Theoretical, scientific and analytical study of artefacts and materials
  • Analysis of the context and practice of conservation
  • Independent learning
  • To undertake a major research project
  • To deliver a professional standard thesis

Learning environment

  • High tutor: student ratio
  • Workshop access 7am-10pm, 7 days a week
  • An interdisciplinary environment
  • Teaches students to understand and apply Icon's Professional Standards in Conservation
  • Visiting lecturers from public and private institutions


Alumni include professional conservators in high profile museums and libraries nationally and internationally. They work with public and private collections. Some pursue a career path into collections care, or work as independent conservators, advisors or tutors.

Entry requirements

A first degree in Conservation or related subject. If your first degree is in an unrelated subject you can still attain the MA Conservation Studies by first doing the Graduate Diploma, then a single stage Postgraduate Diploma transition into the MA programme. The path to MA is therefore two years, without a relevant undergraduate degree.

You will be able to demonstrate a considered research question.

International students will require English language CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) level B2 or ILETS 6.5.


You will work in dedicated, well-equipped workshops and studios. Facilities include an analytical laboratory and computer suite. The on-site Art and Conservation Library gives you access to specialist databases and thousands of specialist books and journals.

Collaboration with other conservation specialisms makes for a uniquely enriched learning environment.


  • UK/EU Fee: £17,520
  • International: £17,520
    Students have the option to pay fees in instalments by term, 2 weeks in advance of term start date.

Funding available, find out about funding here.

New Postgraduate Loans

If you are a UK student and plan to take a postgraduate Master's course you may be able to get a postgraduate loan of up to £10,000 to help with course fees and living costs.

See www.gov.uk/postgraduate-loan


Lorna Calcutt (MA ACR)

Lorna has been a tutor then Programme Leader at West Dean College for fifteen years and prior to that was employed as a conservator in national institutions and in the private sector.

David Dorning (MA ACR)

David is a book and paper conservation specialist who has tutored more than a generation of book conservators since he began as a tutor in book conservation at West Dean College in 1988. He has taught science for conservators in the UK, USA and Europe, established the analytical laboratory at West Dean College in 2007 and has been the college's science tutor for twenty five years.

Matthew Read (MA ACR)

Matthew Read MA ACR

Programme Leader, Clocks and Related Objects

Matthew Read is a leading voice in the development of conservation within clocks and automaton. An experienced practitioner and accredited conservator in the field of Horology, he originally trained at West Dean College. He has worked at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich as a Conservator and Assistant Curator of Horology. This was followed by five years as a self-employed conservator working with clients from the Museums and Heritage sector including the National Trust.

Shayne Rivers (MA)

Shayne Rivers is an acknowledged world expert in the conservation of furniture and Asian lacquer. She has lectured on conservation in the USA, Australia, Japan, Europe and the UK, and has been involved in the education of the next generation of conservators throughout her professional career.

Tristram Bainbridge (MA ACR)

Tristram works as a contract furniture conservator at the V&A and in private practice. He has lectured in conservation at the City and Guilds of London and at Camberwell College of Art.

Abigail Bainbridge (MA)

Abigail Bainbridge teaches book conservation at West Dean and worked in the book conservation lab at Columbia University and as a freelance conservator at Paper Dragon Books in New York City

Belinda Hager (MA)

Belinda studied Metalwork Conservation at West Dean College, graduating with an MA in Conservation Studies. She also has a Postgraduate Diploma in Museum Practice and Management from the University of Ulster. She works in private practice as a metalwork conservator/restorer

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for this course or would like further information please contact admissions either by enquiring online or calling the number below. To make your application you will need to download and fill out our application form.

+44 (0)1243 818 291

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West Dean is part of a registered charity and relies on the support of generous donors, friends, legacies to help us deliver world-class education in conservation and the creative arts and maintain our award-winning gardens.

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