Postgraduate Study

Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings

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The conservation of paintings is an inter-disciplinary subject and is open to graduates in art, art history or the natural sciences.

The three-year course is a rigorous programme that combines teaching conservation theory and practice, using both subject-based learning and problem-solving practical work.

The course content is relevant to all aspects of painting conservation and how it is placed in the broadest context of historical and contemporary practice. These include interventive conservation practice, preventive conservation and collections management, conservation science and conservation research.

On graduating, students will be:

  • fully aware of the practical and varied issues surrounding easel painting conservation
  • knowledgeable about a specific artist or period techniques professional
  • practitioners in easel conservation

On graduation, you will be equipped with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to work within a professional framework in either the public or the independent sector.


Course introduction

career prospects

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Key Facts

  • Full time
  • 5 students
  • 3 years
Language skills:
  • English
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With about fifteen students in total, each working on two or three paintings, the Department is an exceptionally busy place and a lively forum for the exchange of ideas and exploration of treatment options, and this is actively encouraged through regular "work in progress" meetings.

Download the Conservation of Easel Paintings course handbook here. 


The first year provides a foundation of knowledge, visual and practical skills on which students will build over the duration of the course.

Classes and lectures cover the following topics: the history of artists' materials and techniques; the deterioration of paintings and preventive conservation/environmental control; documentation and technical examination of paintings; methods and materials of conservation and conservation practice.

Time is divided approximately equally between classroom and studio. Practical work starts with the group making replicas before students work individually on paintings under continuous supervision. This will commence from the end of the first term.


The second year focuses on developing knowledge, skills and approaches.

Teaching is primarily in the studio, with projects designed to develop an understanding of conservation practice. Students develop problem-solving skills grounded in theoretical understanding and explore how to apply them in practice to a specific painting. Students work independently under continuous supervision.

Students also work in a team on an environmental survey which might focus on a problematic room, house, gallery or other space where paintings are displayed. At the end of the survey, students produce a report and practical recommendations.

Topics from the first year are studied in greater depth, including the identification and analysis of artists' materials and techniques; developments in the structural conservation of paintings on canvas and on panel; new methods of cleaning paintings and varnish removal.

In order to place the studies in the broadest context of historical and contemporary practice, there are visits to conservation studios and scientific departments in the national museums and the independent sector.

In the second and third years, there are study trips abroad to centres of excellence.


The third year focuses on research and increasingly advanced problem- solving, planning and critical judgement.

Students are expected to gain command of the theoretical, conceptual and technical frameworks of conservation and be able to apply their knowledge and skills independently within a professional ethical framework.

A research project in the first term provides an opportunity to specialise in a particular aspect of conservation and prepare for a career path in professional conservation. Topics may be technical, philosophical, analytical or practical.

Projects are publicly presented at an annual conference (Gerry Hedley Student Symposium) that brings together students from all three programmes in the UK that study the conservation of easel paintings. The projects often achieve such high standards that they are published in conservation journals or at international conferences.

During the Spring and Summer Terms students return to conservation practical work and the completion of their treatments. By the third year students should be able to take a lead in formulating treatment proposals and discussing alternatives but the level of supervision from previous years is maintained.

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

Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings Programme Specification

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The Postgraduate Diploma is assessed on the following written work:

  • Practical conservation assessment (end of Year 1)
  • Exams in either science or art history, dependent on the student's first degree (end of Year 1)
  • A one week "take away" essay paper, taken by all students (end of Year 1)
  • Practical conservation assessment (year 2)
  • Research dissertation of 10,000 words (end of Year 3)
  • Practical conservation assessment (end of Year 3)

NB. At the end of year one, students must achieve a satisfactory standard in their practical work and pass the exams in order to continue.

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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

New Home/EU fee: £9,930
New Overseas fee: £19,450

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 Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings is full-time and requires you to be in the Department every day during term time.



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Applications open between 15/10/2014 and 01/12/2014


Applications for the 2015/6 Postgraduate Diploma in Conservation of Easel Paintings programme have now closed. The deadline for applications was 1 December 2014. 

Application Guidance:




NOTE: All interviews for the Postgraduate Diploma in Conservation of Easel Paintings are held on-site, as manual dexterity and colour vision tests will be conducted to determine your suitability for the course. No offers will be made without interview.

The Courtauld is not able to compensate applicants for travel expenses associated with interview. If you are selected for an interview, it will be held at the end of February.  

Please do not contact to check on the status of your application.  We will contact you when there is a change in the status on your application.

You will be contacted before the end of March with a final decision about your application.


Scholarship Applications will be completed separately to the Online Admissions Application, will be sent via hardcopy in the post, and must be received within a week of submitting the Online Application. More information can be found here.