Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings

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Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings


Postgraduate Taught Courses

Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings


The study of the conservation of easel paintings is a 3-year full-time course and leads to the qualification of a postgraduate diploma. Its interdisciplinary nature brings together art history, fine arts and natural sciences, and applicants usually have a BA or equivalent degree in any of these subjects. The student body is international, with a yearly intake limited to 5, which makes the teacher-student ratio exceptionally high. The competitive nature of the course leads to an equally exceptionally high degree of employment upon graduation, in both the most reputable institutions and private conservation studios in the world, such as the National Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Getty, the National Trust, and the Royal Collection.

On graduating, you will be:

  • Able to address the complexity of easel painting conservation.
  • Knowledgeable about artists’ materials and techniques from the medieval to the contemporary period.
  • Be proficient in communicating achievements through presentations.
  • Highly employable practitioners in painting conservation and conservation science.

Find out more about the department’s research.

Key Facts

Location: Vernon Square Kings Cross, London, WC1X 9EP (during The Courtauld Connects project)

Status: Full-time or part-time

Duration: Full-time: 3 years

Intake: 5

Awarding Body: University of London

Applications: Applications for 2021/22 entry are now open. See ‘How to Apply‘ page.


Entry Requirements

UK qualifications: Successful applicants will normally hold a Bachelor’s degree in either Fine Art, History of Art, or in the Natural Sciences, and have achieved a good 2.1, considered to be an overall average 65% or above. If you hold a degree in another subject, please contact the Admissions Team to check eligibility at

Overseas qualifications: Equivalent to a good 2.1 in a UK first degree (e.g. US applicants should have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or above).

Applications: Please see ‘How to Apply‘ page for information.

Further information: In your application, you will be asked questions relating to your knowledge and experience of those fields that are not your main area of study (fine art, history of art or science). Though we do not expect candidates to have deep knowledge of all three fields, a level of interest in them is essential, and evidence of aptitude in them at GCSE level can be beneficial. Equally, previous conservation experience is not required, though some understanding of the nature of paintings conservation is desirable.

Interviews: Around 20 applicants are selected for interview for five available places, plus a short waiting list. Interviews take a whole day and include a practical test to assess manual dexterity and colour matching, a short slide test to assess observational skills, a tour of the department and chance to meet current students, as well as the interview itself. Interviewees are asked to bring a small portfolio with a sample of original artwork by them. Students must have normal colour vision and a colour-blindness test is carried out. Interviews dates for entry in 2021 will be confirmed shortly.

English language requirements: If your first language is not English, we require proof of English language proficiency –please see the English Language Requirements page.


Year 1:

In the first year, the emphasis is on the development of visual, practical and intellectual skills. Seminars cover the following topics: artists’ materials and techniques including replica-making; the deterioration of paintings and preventative conservation; documentation and technical examination; methods and materials of painting conservation; research and critical thinking skills. Students with a BA in art history or the fine arts take chemistry classes, while students with a degree in natural science attend art history classes. Time is divided equally between the classroom and studio.

Year 2:

The second year centres on developing frameworks for decision-making. Teaching is primarily in the studio, working on paintings on canvas or panels from all periods. Students apply problem-solving skills grounded in theoretical understanding and art historical research to specific treatments. Topics from the first year are studied in greater depth, such as the technical analysis of artists’ materials; painting techniques of modern and contemporary painters; structural treatments; and approaches to cleaning. The second year also includes visits to conservation studios and scientific departments as well as the opportunity to participate in “Painting Pairs”, where students collaborate with art history students on the research of a particular painting.

Year 3:

In the first term of the third year, students complete a 10.000 word-long diploma thesis. The research projects often achieve such high standards that they are published or presented at international conferences. In addition, students gain such command of the theoretical and technical frameworks of conservation that they are now able to apply their knowledge and skills independently. Second- and third-year students also go on study trips abroad to centres of excellence and benefit both from the active research culture in the department itself and at The Courtauld Institute at large.

Teaching & Assessment

Teaching: The course is taught through a combination of lectures, seminars, practical studio sessions, workshops, visits to conservation studios and science departments, and one-to-one tutorial meetings.

Lectures and seminars are held in classes of five students to facilitate an intimate environment in which to study and engage with subjects in depth with your teacher and your classmates.

In addition, you have timetabled meetings with your personal tutor several times per term, both to discuss progress and general issues as well as to receive feedback after assessed presentations. You can always request further meetings with your personal tutor.

Throughout your degree, you will be taught by both the teaching staff of the department and professionals in the field, who bring a rich diversity of knowledge and experience to the class-room. Our faculty come from different backgrounds and are among the leading experts in their field. They have published important works about their areas of expertise and will engage you with their cutting-edge research.

Assessment: The course involves a variety of methods of assessment:

Each term you will give a presentation at so-called “work in progress” meetings and complete written and photographic documentation for each painting.

There are viva voce examinations of practical work at the end of each year. At the end of the first year, you will also sit for a science or art history exam and write three essays on a number of conservation-related topics.

You will have to pass the examinations at the end of the first and second years in order to progress to the next year. Our postgraduate diploma is awarded on the basis of the research project and the examinations at the end of the Third Year. All examinations and assessments involve internal and external markers. The external markers are conservators from academic and public institutions.

Careers & Employability

The course is designed to produce graduates with highly transferable skills, which will prepare you for a wide range of employment opportunities, or further academic study. Our graduates are not only equipped with a detailed knowledge and understanding of the conservation of easel paintings, but also learn how to:

  • Analyse visual imagery and articulate sophisticated arguments in formal writing and in oral presentations.
  • Read critically.
  • Assimilate complex material.
  • Present research to a varied audience.
  • Develop independent research skills.
  • Experience collaborative work in groups.

With these skills, Courtauld graduates go on to jobs in the international art world, usually in private practice or in museums such as the National Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Getty, the National Trust, and the Royal Collection.


To support you through the degree, we offer:

Wellbeing: We have a dedicated Wellbeing team, with counsellors and advisors.

Academic and Practical Skills: You will be offered consistent access to your personal tutor and the rest of the academic teaching staff. The small number of students allow us to create an exceptionally supportive environment.

Fees & Funding

2020/21 fees are available on our Fees & Funding pages.

Fees are subject to change each academic year. Fee information, including what qualifies as home, EU, and overseas fees, can be found here.

Financial support for your studies:

Courtauld Institute of Art Scholarships: Scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit combined with financial need. The average postgraduate scholarship awarded in 2019/20 was £6,000. Applications are welcomed from Home, EU and Overseas students applying to or currently studying in 2020/21.

Alumni Loyalty Scheme: This scheme is open to any graduate of The Courtauld Institute of Art admitted to a taught postgraduate programme of study. Recipients will receive a 10% loyalty discount off their tuition fee for the duration of the course.

Further information about loans, grants, and bursaries to support you during your studies at The Courtauld can be found on our Fees & Funding pages.


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Postgraduate Prospectus 2021/22

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