School of Arts

A centre of excellence and creative possibility

Be challenged and exposed to a stimulating mix of ideas and knowledge in the immersive environment of the School of Arts. Study options range from short courses from beginner to advanced, to Foundation and Graduate Diplomas, and the MFA.

The School has a strong practical as well as academic focus. Those on a full-time programme will develop advanced making and craft skills appropriate to their discipline and undertake original theoretical and contextual research to inform practice. Short course students will learn new skills and techniques or nurture existing talents.

The vision of founder and Surrealist patron Edward James connects today's students with a rich heritage of art. Students have the opportunity to engage with site-specific subjects, individual objects or references to the College's history relating to Edward James, surrealism and beyond.

School of Arts Degrees & Diplomas

Full-time Fine Art programmes

The full-time accredited Fine Art programme allows you to specialise in Painting and Drawing, Sculpture or Tapestry and Textile Art.

You can gain your Graduate Diploma or Master of Fine Art (MFA). The large dedicated studios and access to art and craft short courses emphasise practical, studio-based skills, underpinned by theoretical research and contextual studies. The programme also involves making use of the historic West Dean House and extensive grounds to explore site-specific work.

FdA Historic Craft Practices

A practice-led Foundation degree encompasses making with the option to develop basic skills in conservation and repair. You will have the opportunity to develop high level practical craftsmanship skills, with a specialist heritage crafts and conservation environment. Students specialise in Clocks, Furniture, Metalwork or Musical Instruments.

MA Creative Writing and Publishing

Study part-time over two years to gain your MA. For committed writers the course offers immersive study in an inspiring setting and tuition from published authors.

Art and Craft Short Courses

Choose from over 800 short courses at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation. Day, week and weekend courses are all taught by practising professionals. Gain hands-on experience and creative inspiration in a wide variety of art and craft subjects, ideal for both beginners and more experienced artists and makers. If you are looking to develop a strong portfolio of work, our Foundation Degree in Art and Design will prepare you to apply for an Art and Design related degree. The Diploma in Art and Contemporary Crafts is a two year part-time programme delivered through intensive study blocks. The programme is focused on developing skills essential to the successful development of a sustainable studio practice, both practical and contextual.

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Visual Arts Student Facilities at West Dean College


Study in fully equipped workshops and studios, with plenty of natural light and your own dedicated workspace. All students have access to the specialist Arts and Conservation Library and the computer suite, each subject area then has specialist facilities and equipment.

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West Dean Summer Show 2019

Work by Agata Bogacka at West Dean College School of Arts

The West Dean Summer Show 2019 will showcase original work by emerging artists studying for their Diploma in Art and Contemporary Crafts, Graduate Diploma and MFA qualifications. The free exhibition, held in the College's Edward James Studios, will display a diverse range of practices including sculpture, installation, print, painting, film, ceramics, and textiles.

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Student on the Making Musical Instrument Course

Student Case Studies

Hear from current and past students on their experiences at West Dean College.

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Tapestry Studio

Eva Rothschild Tapestry at West Dean Tapestry Studio

West Dean Tapestry Studio is one of the only professional tapestry studios in the UK.

It specialises in contemporary design and weaving using heritage techniques. The studio is known for its strong interpretive skills and artistic vision. Tracey Emin, Martin Creed and Henry Moore are among the artists our weavers have worked with.

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Work by Renee So, Artist in Residence 2019

Residencies at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

The West Dean College residency programme provides professional artists, writers, and makers the opportunity to work onsite for a period of one to three weeks. The resident artists engage with students studying at West Dean College, providing tutorial support, leading workshops, and giving presentations on their practice.

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School of Arts Blog

Visual Arts Summer Show 2017 West Dean College

Welcome to the School of Arts blog - a wealth of news and insights from The School of Arts.

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The space in the studios at West Dean, and the opportunity to do such large-scale work is unique. There's amazing space here - it blows my mind!

Emma Rimer, Graduate Diploma student