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MFA Master of Fine Arts

Course Description

Still accepting applications for 2016/17

The MFA (Master of Fine Arts) at West Dean College is a two-year full-time programme of study designed to further advance students' capacities in practical, theoretical and professional domains, with an emphasis on specialist studio practice. The two-year structure provides students with sustained periods of studio-based activity, with dissertation requirements coming early in the second year of study. The emphasis on practice is nonetheless informed and supported by theoretical and professional Study Units throughout the academic year. Whether specialising in a single discipline or working across media, MFA students will have time to develop and expand their studio work to the highest standards, bringing in relevant historical, theoretical and professional perspectives.

::MFA students can expect::

- Support in consolidating studio practice to a level appropriate for accomplished practitioners
- Access to facilities, workshops and expertise for the fabrication of artworks relating to the individual student's ambitions
- Opportunities to employ innovative approaches to studio practice through which conceptual ideas are tested and informed by use of selected media
- To gain a comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own research and scholarship
- To develop originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the Visual Arts
- To consolidate a systematic understanding and critical awareness of current debates in contemporary art practice
- To further develop aptitude for professional practice, independent research or employment, including opportunities for public exhibition
- To possess independence, self-reliance, as well as promotional enterprise skills, motivated toward professional practice or employment

::Learning Environment::

- Large individual studio spaces
- An excellent staff-to-student ratio with the possibility for weekly tutorial support
- A specialised programme of lectures, seminars and workshops
- Input from regular Visiting Lecturers and artists
- Expert support for a dedicated team of workshop technicians
- Professional development provision for gallery visits and other external events
- Contact with a regular series of professional Artists-in-Residence based in the Visual Arts studios throughout the academic year
- An immersive environment with rich connections to art history, particularly Surrealism, through the legacy of college founder Edward James

Programme Aims

The MFA programme Aims and Learning Outcomes are consistent with the descriptors for a
qualification at QAA Level 7, as defined in the QAA Quality Code for Higher Education (Part A,
Chapter 1).

The programme aims are to provide:


1. Provide a stimulating and supportive learning environment for students to develop their
creative, intellectual and material practices

2. Provide facilities and support through which students can further develop their skills and fluency
to an advanced level as accomplished practitioners, gaining a comprehensive understanding of
techniques applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship

3. Enable students to achieve a comprehensive understanding and detailed knowledge of key
aspects of their field of study, as well as creative originality in their application

4. Encourage and support advanced experimental, creative approaches to studio work, much of
which is at, or informed by, the forefront of academic discipline, field of study or area of
professional practice (QAA Quality Code Part A, Chapter A1, p12)


1. Provide a stimulating environment where advanced research methods and critical practices can
be articulated and where a comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to personal
research and advanced scholarship can flourish

2. Increase student’s ability to deploy accurately advanced techniques of analysis and inquiry within
their chosen discipline

3. Enable students to articulate an advanced critical understanding of studio practice and its
contexts within contemporary visual art culture, much of which is informed by the forefront of
art practice and theory


1. Provide support for personal and professional development, including development and
application of transferable skills such as self-management, decision-making, communication,
collaboration, problem solving, IT and research skills

2. Educate students to possess independence, self-understanding, self-reliance motivated toward
future learning, practice or employment


All full-time Visual Arts students are provided with a large individual workspace in the Edward James Studios. In addition to specialist spaces dedicated to Painting and Drawing, Sculpture and Tapestry and Textile-based work, the studios also include Seminar Room, a materials and tool store, a small photographic darkroom, bookable exhibition and research spaces, plus an IT suite with digital editing software. A self-contained Print Room offers specialist facilities for etching, aquatint, monoprinting, woodblock and linocut. Students can work on a large-scale in the Sculpture Courtyard, which is also suitable for work in stone carving.

Students are encouraged to collaborate with other College departments - particularly the full-time programmes in the School of Conservation - making the most of the wide range of specialist knowledge, materials and equipment that is available. The Short Course programme also allows students to access a wide range of visiting tutors and specialist techniques that can further enhance their studies.

West Dean House and Estate offers students access to ambitious exhibition opportunities and unique research material. Students are able to submit site-specific proposals throughout the year and are encouraged to take part in the annual Open House event. The Edward James Collection is an outstanding resource for full-time students, given them access to a range of significant, even iconic, works of art as an ongoing source of inspiration and research.

The College's Arts and Conservation Library gives students access to thousands of specialist books, journals and databases to support their studies.

The Main House also contains West Dean Tapestry Studio, one of the world's leading producers of hand-woven tapestry. As well as having close contact with the expertise of Master Weavers and designers, students have access to the studio's Dye Rooms, a specialist facility for the dyeing of yarn. Find out more about the professional Tapestry Studio here - https://www.westdean.org.uk/study/school-of-creative-arts/tapestry-studio

Visit the MFA Master of Fine Arts page on the West Dean College website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Nicola Ferrie

"After studying for a BA in Fine Art, I wanted to further my education and gain more manual skills. West Dean College seemed a perfect choice because of its interdisciplinary teaching and access to workshops and short courses.

My art practice is based on materiality and the variety of teaching available and importance put on making has been amazing. I have introduced ceramics, textiles and printmaking into my art practice, all because of the access that I have had to real experts in these fields.

Thanks to the support of the Edward James Foundation, I have been able to fully immerse myself in my art and creativity. I know that having an MFA qualification is going to be life changing."


Entry Requirements

The following qualifications will be considered for entry on to the MFA:A good Honours Degree or equivalent qualification in Visual Arts or a related disciplineRelevant work experience in an arts-related field which demonstrates the ability to study at postgraduate levelPortfolio: including evidence of current practical work, sketchbooks and evidence of critical writing. An appropriate level of engagement with current debates in contemporary arts and making is required

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