From 2022, the Conservation studios will be located in Somerset House. Teaching in Conservation will be at Somerset House and at our Vernon Square campus.
Full-time: 3 years
University of London
6 students per year
The MA in the Conservation of Easel Paintings is a 3-year full-time course which will prepare you for a professional career. Its interdisciplinary nature brings together art history, fine arts and the natural sciences. Applicants usually have a BA or equivalent degree in any of these subjects. The student body is international, with a yearly intake limited to six students, which makes the teacher-student ratio exceptionally high. The course leads to an 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. The strong practical and intellectual focus of the degree is reflected in courses designed to build on knowledge and to develop both practical and decision making skills underpinned by ethical and scientific principles.
After graduating you will have gained practical experience in a range of real easel paintings conservation and will be able to design, carry out and evaluate conservation treatments proficiently and independently. You will be able to interpret results from technical study and relate them to practice, and will be able to plan and develop original research relating to easel painting conservation. You will gain critical and communication skills that will equip you for diverse careers in conservation and beyond.
Find out more about the department’s research.
Download the prospectusPostgraduate Prospectus 2021/22
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.
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 six 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.
The three-year programme is delivered through lectures, seminars and self-directed study, integrated with a significant proportion of problem-based learning through supervised studio-based activities including conservation treatments and technical study of easel paintings.
Year 1: This year focuses on the acquisition of foundation knowledge and the development and application of scientific methods. Courses focus on the theory, ethics and practice of conservation, technology and history of easel paintings, art history and technical study. Applied science is integrated throughout theoretical and practical courses. The teaching provides a foundation for understanding and identifying condition and conservation requirements. Practical work in the studio forms a substantial part of each term and introduces the application of principles and theory to the practical conservation and examination of easel paintings.
Year 2: The majority of time in the second year is devoted to practical work in the studio, with students becoming increasingly independent in carrying out conservation work. Lectures and workshops are devoted to preventive conservation and collections care with a monitoring exercise, and advanced principles and theory of conservation.
Year 3: The majority of the year is spent in the conservation studio undertaking practical conservation treatments. One third of the final year is devoted to an independent research project.
Teaching and assessment
Teaching: The teaching methods, modes of delivery and assessments vary according to the objectives of each course within the programme . There are a combination of lectures, seminars, practical studio sessions, workshops, and professional context visits to conservation studios and science departmentsall undertaken in small classes of students. In addition, you have timetabled meetings with the tutors several times per term, both to discuss progress and general issues as well as to receive feedback after assessed presentations.
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:
The range of assessment methods requires students to demonstrate skills through the production of coherent written, verbal and practical responses to the questions or problems set. Assessments include take-home and sat timed exams, term-time essays, other types of coursework, and presentations.
At The Courtauld practical work on paintings in conservation studios accounts for the majority of the degree, which is reflected in both the credit structure and assessment in the final year. Each term you will give a presentation at so-called “work in progress” meetings You will also complete written and photographic documentation for each painting you conserve, and sit a viva voce examination at the end of each year.
You will have to pass the examinations at the end of the first and second years in order to progress to the next year.
The Conservation Department is equipped with extensive scientific laboratories. and state-of-the-art facilities the analysis of paintings and wall paintings. Both portable and bench-top equipment at the Department are available for teaching and research. The department houses major collections of easel painting samples, X-radiographs, wall painting fragments and wall painting samples from around the world, the archive of the Survey of Historic Wall Paintings in the British Isles .
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.
The Department is also closely linked with The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Centre for Buddhist Art and Conservation at the Courtauld, and the specialist collection of literature on on Asian art. Both the Conservation Department and the Ho Centre periodically hold conferences and public lectures in association with the Research Forum and museums and other institutions from outside The Courtauld, and benefit from contributions by Visiting Conservators. The department also acts as a centre for conservation and art-historical advice to outside conservators, scholars and the public.
Fees and 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 grants, and bursaries to support you during your studies at The Courtauld can be found here.
Please note students on this programme are not eligible to apply for Master’s Loan by the UK government.
Careers and employability
The course is designed to produce graduates who are prepared for a professional career in the conservation of easel paintings, but also will equip you with highly transferable skills, which will prepare you for a wide range of employment opportunities, or further academic study. As well as being equipped with a detailed knowledge and understanding of the conservation of easel paintings, our graduates will gain:
- The ability to communicate effectively orally and in writing
- Intellectual independence and maturity; self-discipline and self-direction
- Respect for the views of others
- Project management through developing, conducting, and managing conservation and research projects independently
- Ability to work in a team, collaborate and share resources
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.