West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

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Introduction to West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

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"At West Dean College, all programmes are taught by practicing professionals, who are internationally renowned in their respective fields."


From short courses in arts and crafts, to degrees and diplomas in Conservation and Creative Arts, benefit from our international reputation and create your future.

Study options range from degrees and diplomas to short courses for beginners to advanced. You can develop your practice in subjects spanning the visual arts, crafts, writing, gardening, conservation and much more. Short courses normally last between one and five days and can be either non-residential or residential.

The College is situated at the heart of the 6,400-acre West Dean Estate, set amongst the stunning landscape of the South Downs National Park. With its large country house style, it offers a creative and immersive environment to escape the everyday and learn new skills in an informal, relaxed atmosphere within a spectacular setting.

The award-winning West Dean Gardens and landscaped parkland ensure that you are surrounded by a remarkable setting and range of features and materials which many of the tutors use as inspiration for project work.

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Short courses

West Dean College offers over 700 short courses each year covering a vast range of subjects from pottery, mosaic making and tapestry, through to woodworking, sculpture, metalworking and photography. You can come and explore new subjects and ideas, develop skills and make practical and beautiful things.

All West Dean courses are taught by practicing professionals, many of whom are world renowned in their field. Numbers of students on courses are kept low to ensure that you have the space and time needed to best develop your skills and knowledge. View our tutor profiles and images of their work on our website for inspiration when choosing a course.

To find out more about short courses or call + 44 (0) 1243 811301. 

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Diplomas, MA and MFA programmes

West Dean College also runs diploma courses, including MAs validated by the University of Sussex.

School of Conservation

Students from around the world come here to study conservation of books, ceramics, clocks, furniture and metals. Students have access to live conservation projects and benefit from the college’s active links with the heritage sector. Alumni are among the most sought-after in their field, nationally and internationally. Two years after graduating, 70% of conservation students who responded to a questionnaire were working in their field of conservation (student questionnaire, 2015).

School of Creative Arts

You can also specialise in Tapestry and Textile Art, Sculpture or Painting and Drawing on the MA in Visual Arts or MFA. 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.

In a 2016 survey of students studying at West Dean College: 84% say they feel better prepared for their future career.

The college has a very low student to staff ratio with a high level of personal tuition.

For out more about full-time programmes or call + 44 (0) 1243 818291

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The specialist workshops and studios at West Dean College are among the best-equipped in the UK and include:

  • A pottery
  • Forge
  • Fine metals workshop
  • Naturally lit art studios
  • Sculpture courtyard
  • Craft shop
  • Specialist Art and Conservation Library
  • Computer suite
  • Analytical laboratory

Residential accommodation for short courses

Make your creative experience truly immersive by staying with us during your short course. Some of the rooms feature antique furniture, private bathrooms and/or views over the surrounding gardens, whilst others have a more simple and contemporary feel. You can even stay an extra night before or after your course and wake up to the characterful charm of this period property set in acres of parkland.

Start the day with a traditional English or continental breakfast in the bright and airy dining room. For lunch and dinner, you will find a tempting new menu each day, with two seasonal hot dishes, salad bar and a range of puddings. Lunch is included with your course. Dinner and breakfast are included in your stay.

Where possible ingredients are sourced locally including seasonal fruit and vegetables from West Dean Gardens.

Find out more about staying at West Dean. 

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West Dean College is situated in South East England, on the A286, six miles north of the historic city of Chichester. There is convenient road access from London (65 miles) and from Gatwick, Southampton and Heathrow airports. It is within reach of Eurotunnel connections as well as cross channel ferries from Portsmouth, Dover and Newhaven. The nearest railway station is Chichester (from London Victoria).

West Dean College is set in the award-winning West Dean Gardens, one of the greatest restored gardens open to the public in England. Many short courses take direct inspiration from the surrounding landscape and students have full access to explore the gardens during their course. 

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Student stories

Short course student profile

Gillian Marles

"My first course was a birthday gift and I loved the experience so was soon back for more. Although my work is creative (we run our own small graphic design consultancy). I was keen to find a more personal creative outlet, so a short course was the perfect way to try something new.

Having got the 'pottery bug' on my first course I was soon back to improve my throwing skills. I was surprised by how generous the tutor was with her knowledge and expertise; the support of the other students was also very affirming. And we had a real laugh!

Staying at West Dean is always a treat too; the rooms are lovely, the bar is great, and there are beautiful buildings and gardens, it’s a pleasure to be there. I've met some great people - fellow creative spirits, and we've subsequently met up to share resources, skills and experiences which has really enabled me to improve my skills. I’m now selling a few of my pots in a gallery in Cornwall, so really West Dean College has created my practice from scratch.

I will definitely do more courses - I'm just at the beginning of my life with clay!”

Postgraduate diploma leading to MA, Conservation of Furniture and Related Objects

Cathy Silverman

"After completing my degree in History of Art and French I worked in politics before studying Furniture Restoration at London Metropolitan University. I became interested in conservation and familiar with painting restoration and upholstery during my degree but wasn't sure which area I wanted to go into.

I decided to come to West Dean as I wanted to do an MA which would be useful for my career … I have now been offered an exciting 12 month position with a commercial conservation company in New York.

I chose West Dean as it has such a good reputation in the industry. I like having so much access to the workshops and working on quality objects as well as the small class sizes. The College is very well focussed on conservation in an intensive, positive and friendly way."

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Contact details

West Dean College
West Sussex
PO18 0QZ

Tel: +44 (0) 1243 811301