Postgraduate Study

MA in Conservation of Wall Paintings

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The MA in Conservation of Wall Paintings programme accepts new students once every three years. The next intake will be for the 2016/7 academic year.

A number of scholarships are available, please refer to AkzoNobel Scholarships for Brazilian and Chinese students, or this page for more information on Funding and Scholarships for Postgraduate Study at The Courtauld. 

Studying for the MA in Conservation of wall painting at The Courtauld is a unique experience and graduates are well-equipped to enter any of the varied aspects of the conservation profession across the world.

The three-year MA at the Courtauld focuses on a critical aspect of art heritage and is unique in the world - students will spend time in the UK and abroad. The course is designed to develop skills in a wide range of areas - from science to documentation to art history. These skills underpin the theory and practice of conservation.

The connection between painting, building and location ensures that every wall painting is individual and highly complex. Consequently, the course is open to graduates in humanities and sciences. Students from different backgrounds are encouraged to apply. Previous experience in the field is not required.

On graduating, students will be:

  • equipped with the ability to assess paintings in context, as well as having the necessary practical skills to pursue a career in conservation
  • experienced in working in multidisciplinary teams with scientists and conservators
  • able to participate in the development of the profession

On graduation, you will join a long list of Courtauld alumni who have gone on to fulfil conservation work for heritage organisations and private roles across the world in practical and leadership roles.

Key Facts

  • Full time
  • 8 students
  • 3 years
Language skills:
  • English
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The MA in Conservation of Wall Painting is a three-year course, designed to promote teamwork across the various disciplines that make up this specialist area of conservation.

The course provides graduates with an understanding of the methodology and technical aspects of conservation as well as how to assess the historical and physical aspects of wall paintings and how this relates to their environmental context.

It is an intense course. The first two years cover a lot of the fundamentals and are a mix of taught and practical sessions. The final year is devoted wholly to fieldwork and individual research projects.


The first year consists of formal teaching which is devoted principally to:

  • conservation science,
  • the technology of wall paintings,
  • the theory and practice of conservation,
  • the history of wall painting and its conservation, and documentation.

The teaching starts with fundamentals, so that previous experience in science or art history (though desirable) is not required.

Conservation history, theory, materials and practice are taught both in formal courses and in practical sessions (one day each week), culminating in a period of six to eight weeks in the field at the end of the year. Associated with the teaching are numerous site visits to study wall paintings and conservation problems first-hand.

The second year concentrates on specialised courses on scientific examination, environmental causes of deterioration, and the cleaning and consolidation of wall paintings.

These courses include teaching by leading international specialists, and they are integrated closely with the departmental conservation programmes.

The final year is devoted wholly to fieldwork and individual research projects.


The MA is exceptional in that all the travel and accommodation costs for fieldwork are paid by the Department.

Fieldwork is scheduled throughout the three years and makes up about 50% of the course work.

You will participate in departmental conservation programmes, which in recent years have been located in China, India and the Mediterranean. These projects provide aximum individual supervision and are designed to include all aspects of conservation— from technical examination, environmental assessment and diagnostic investigations, through passive and remedial interventions.

In China, we work in collaboration with the Dunhuang Academy and the Getty Conservation Institute at the extraordinary site of Dunhuang, with some 500 painted cave temples, dating from the 5th to the 14th centuries.

In India, in collaboration with the Mehrangarh Museum Trust, we have an ongoing project at the Nagaur Fort in Rajasthan, where fascinating paintings in various royal palaces present a wide range of conservation challenges.

In the Mediterranean, projects have included the conservation of medieval and later paintings in Ibiza, of Renaissance and Baroque paintings in Malta, and of Byzantine paintings in four churches in the Troodos Mountains in Cyprus. Of these, our programme at the monastery of Agios Ioannis Lampadistis continues with conservation of the important 13th-century and later wall paintings.

In addition to projects incorporated in the MA curriculum, the Department has further fieldwork and research projects that enrich the students' learning environment, as at Petra, Jordan, where a programme to conserve the hugely important Nabataean wall paintings began in 2007, and in Bhutan where a study of the technology of the wall paintings aims to lead to their improved care.


The Courtauld's Conservation of Wall Painting Department is equipped with its own laboratories and specialist library. It also houses important research collections of wall painting fragments and samples, as well as the archive of the National Survey of Medieval Wall Painting.

Students benefit from access to a wide range of research facilities at both the Institute and other parts of the University of London, as well as other major libraries nearby. Close collaboration with scientists and conservators in the national museums and heritage organisations offers further opportunities for training and research.

Detailed information about the aims and objectives of the course can be found in the full programme specification below:

MA Conservation of Wall Painting Programme Specification - Summary

MA Conservation of Wall Painting Programme Specification - Detailed


Research undertaken

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The MA in Conservation of Wall Painting is assessed on formal and informal assessment:

  • Informal assessment is based on essays, seminars, and supervision of practical work (years 1 and 2)
  • Three written exams (taken in Spring term in years 1 and 2)Pass required to progress
  • Oral examination (end of years 1 and 2)
  • Dissertation of 18000 words (Date as agreed in year 3)

NB. Award of degree is based on assessment of the following formally examined components in years 2 and 3: written examinations, oral examinations, and dissertation.


Following completion of your MA in Conservation in Wall Paintings you will develop a range of skills critical to this specialist field. This will involve:

  • ability to examine the materials of paintings and their support, and assess the implications these have on deterioration and intervention;
  • identify relevant factors of deterioration and evaluate the likely effects on the painting of measures proposed for their control;
  • produce full written, graphic and photographic documentation;
  • possess skills to participate in the profession including presentation and publication of papers.


A major component of the MA is an 18,000 word dissertation as part of the final-year research project.

Students select a research topic from a very wide range of areas and each project considers in detail a particular aspect of the technology, recording, examination, or conservation of wall paintings. Many incorporate skills that have been developed throughout the formal teaching while developing additional expertise in research, planning, implementation, information management and networking.

The resulting research leads to acquisition of highly transferrable skills which can lead directly to specific career paths, as well as providing a significant contribution to research in the field.

Topics are varied and have included:

  • studies of the deterioration and cleaning of external murals;
  • correction of UV-induced fluorescence imaging;
  • assessment of ELISA (Enzyme-linked ImmunoSorbent Assay) for wall painting samples;
  • technical studies of Buddhist wall painting in India and medieval wall paintings in England;
  • removing non-original varnishes from oil-based wall paintings.
  • the visualisation of air flow in historic buildings,
  • the reburial of archaeological wall paintings.

The range demonstrates the scope for students to find research avenues that build on and significantly develop their individual interests and skills.

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Entry requirements

Please select your Country of Study

We accept overseas qualifications equivalent to a 2.1 in a UK first degree (e.g. US applicants should have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or above).If you hold a qualification from outside of the UK, please feel free to contact the Academic Registry; however, please be aware that our staff are unable to confirm whether you will be invited to interview, as candidates are judged on the strength of their applications as a whole.

Other Requirements

All applicants are expected to have an effective knowledge of English, both spoken and written. For applicants whose first language is not English, we require proof of English proficiency.

We accept the following English language proficiency tests if taken within 2 years of the start of the programme:

  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) with an overall bandwidth of 7.0 or above, with no less than 6.5 in Reading and Writing.
  • Trinity College London – ISEIII

We will accept the following tests if taken on or before 5th April 2015, and if taken within 2 years of the start of the programme, up until 5th November 2015.

  • Cambridge Advanced English (CAE) with a minimum grade of B
  • Pearson Test for English (PTE) Academic with a score of 75 or above
  • CPE (Cambridge English: Proficiency) with minimum grade of C

Please note that we will not accept institutional test results.

You may be exempt from providing proof of proficiency if either of the following applies to you:

  • You are a national of a majority English speaking country*
  • You have an academic qualification (not a professional or vocational qualification), which is equivalent to a UK Bachelor’s degree and the qualification is from an education provider in a majority English speaking country, including the UK and Republic of Ireland but not Canada.

*Majority English-speaking countries are defined by the Home Office as:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United States of America

If you are unable to book a test at a centre in advance of the application deadline, you may submit your application without an English proficiency result and it will be passed on for consideration. You should send your test result when it becomes available to you.

Foreign language requirements
A small number of the special options require students to be able to study texts in their original language. Where this is a requirement, the special options list the languages needed.

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FEES 2015/16

Home/EU fee: £6,230 (returning students)
Overseas fee: £17,695 (returning students)

Fees are subject to change each academic year. You can find out what qualifies as home, EU and overseas fees here.

Funding a three-year course of study in London is a substantial financial commitment and requires careful thought and planning. The MA in Conservation of Wall Painting is full-time and involves significant periods of fieldwork throughout the course. These typically last about six to eight weeks and are often abroad; travel and accommodation expenses are paid by the Department.


Funding & Scholarship Opportunities

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Applications are considered for the MA in Conservation of Wall Painting every three years.

The next intake is in Autumn 2016.

If you have questions about the application procedure, contact in the Conservation of Wall Painting Department.



Funding & Scholarship Opportunities