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.

Benefit from an artistic community and inspiring rural setting, conducive to focused study. Close proximity to the historic city of Chichester means access to local cultural activities such as the famous Chichester Festival Theatre and Pallant House Gallery, which holds one of the most significant collections of Modern British Art. Further afield galleries and arts venues in Brighton (36 miles) and London (60 miles) are easily accessible. 

Degrees and Diplomas

MFA and Graduate Diploma - Fine Art

The full-time accredited Fine Art programmes allow 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, in a specialist heritage craft and conservation environment. Students specialise in Clocks, Furniture, Metalwork or Musical Instruments.

MA Creative Writing and Publishing

Study part-time for 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 sustainable studio practice, both practical and contextual.

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Large art studios for MFA students at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation


Study in fully equipped workshops and studios, with plenty of natural light and your own dedicated workspace. The onsite craft shop is open to students for supplies and 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 Fine Art Summer Show 2020

West Dean Fine Art Summer Show 2020

For the first time in their history, the Fine Art programmes at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation are hosting their annual Summer Show exhibition online. A new website dedicated to the graduating class of 2020 is now live and features pages dedicated to each student, showcasing their work in a diverse range of media. 

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Student on the Making Musical Instrument Course

Student Case Studies

Hear from current and past students on their experiences at the College, what it's like to live and study here and more about the subjects they studied.

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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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Renee So Artist in Residence at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation


The 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 the College, providing tutorial support, leading workshops, and giving presentations on their practice.

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Maker-in-Residence Open Call 2020

Alec Stevens, West Dean resident, 2020. Photo: Paul Samuel White

West Dean College of Arts and Conservation is pleased to announce an open call for applications to the 2020/21 residency programme.

Co-ordinated by the School of Arts at West Dean College, this residency is designed to support artist-makers to develop research projects and studio-based practices. The residencies are informed by West Dean’s rich history of supporting skills-based making as well as the legacy of its founder, Edward James, renowned for his support of individual artists and avant-garde collaborations across a variety of creative fields.

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Emma Straw Fine Art student, weaving a tapestry at West Dean College

School of Arts Blog

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