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.

Register today for one of our upcoming degree/diploma Virtual Open Days

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 accredited Fine Art programmes allow you time and space to develop an independent, critical understanding of your individual practice, with support for specific disciplines such as Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Tapestry and Textiles, as well as interdisciplinary work.

You can gain your Graduate Diploma or Master of Fine Art (MFA) or Master of Fine Art (MFA) - blended delivery. The emphasis on making that incorporates established and experimental approaches, with the combination of large individual studios and outdoor facilities make it possible to realise ambitious work.

Diploma in Art and Contemporary Crafts

This two-year part-time programme is delivered through intensive study blocks. It is focused on gaining key skills essential to the successful development of sustainable studio practice, both practical and contextual.

Foundation Diploma in Art and Design

If you are looking to develop a strong portfolio of work, our Foundation Diploma in Art and Design will prepare you to apply for an Art and Design related degree, through 10 short courses taken part-time over two years. 

Foundation Degree Arts (FdA)

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 500 short courses at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation. Day, week and weekend courses, plus online creative courses, are all taught by practicing 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. 

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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 2022

Ruth Glasheen. Hat Hill, 2021. Image © Barney Hindle Photography

The West Dean Fine Art Summer Show 2022 will showcase original work by emerging artists studying for their Graduate Diploma and MFA qualifications. The free exhibition, to be 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 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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Alec Stevens, Maker-in-Residence 2020


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

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School of Arts Blog

Emma Straw Fine Art student, weaving a tapestry at 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