The Best Art and Design Schools in the World

Pursuing a creative future is an admirable journey to begin, one which many students shy away from.

However, if art and design are your passions, then you must pursue them! You may regret, as some parents would put it, choosing the “safe option” (but on the flip side that may lead to a mid-life crisis).

Here are the top ten universities in the world to study art & design based on factors such as employer reputation, academic reputation, research citations per paper, and the H-Index (a way of measuring both the productivity and impact of the published work of a scientist or scholar).

Now go on, you creative genius. Go pursue your creative future.

1. Royal College of Art (RCA), London

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The world’s only wholly postgraduate university for art and design, the RCA offers 24 programs across the art and design disciplines, delivered through six schools. The six schools focus on architecture, design, fine art, humanities, communication and material.

The RCA is extremely supportive, welcoming and experienced with accepting international students into their programs, though it can be difficult and competitive to secure financial aid given RCA is a wholly postgraduate school.

Key facts:

  • Enrolment of approximately 1,500 masters and doctoral students, a rather small college

  • RCA has a healthy representation of international students from over 63 countries

  • According to research, over 93% of alumni are professionally active in art and design five years after graduation.

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Second on this list for a reason, full-time MIT students may take subjects for credit at Harvard University, Wellesley College, and Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt). Students also have access to The Center for Art, Science & Technology (MIT CAST) facilitates, which is a place on campus for exchange and collaboration among artists, engineers, and scientists.

According to MIT CAST websites, it’s “a place committed to fostering a culture where the arts, science and technology thrive as interrelated, mutually informing modes of exploration, knowledge and discovery.” While admitted applicants gain access to a great deal of world-class resources, gaining admission is highly competitive.

Key facts:

  • In Autumn(Fall) of 2016, MIT received 19,020 freshman applications and admitted only 1,511, that’s an admission rate of just 7.9%

  • For international students, the admission rate is even smaller. In the Autumn(Fall) of 2016, 4,299 international students applied for MIT and only 132 were admitted, that’s an admission rate of 3%

  • MIT limit international student admissions to fewer than 150 each year

  • The limit place on admissions of international students is due to MIT being one of the few schools in the US that offers need-blind admissions and meets full financial need, no matter how much or how little your family can pay

  • If you are of the calibre to gain admission, MIT is the place to be heading as a designer or any academically minded creative for that matter

3. Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

Because RISD and Ivy League school, Brown, have adjacent campuses on College Hill, students at either institution may cross-register for classes at the alternate campus at no extra cost. Typically, RISD students use this opportunity with Brown to study subjects such as foreign languages, advanced sciences or math classes. The most popular undergraduate majors are Illustration, Industrial Design, Graphic Design, Film/Animation/Video, and Painting.

Key Facts:

  • One of the most impressive stats at RISD is that a massive 96% of alumni are employed one year after graduation

  • Approximately 70% of RISD alumni are employed in positions directly related to their major and 25% are employed in positions indirectly related to their major

  • A massive 33% of students enrolled at RISD are international students

  • Average SAT scores for RISD admits in Autumn(Fall) of 2016 were: 640 math, 623 critical reading and 615 writing

4. Parsons School of Design at the New School

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In 2015, Parsons School of Design at The New School was considered number one school in the world for Art & Design and in 2017 remains in the top five having only slipped down to sit at number four in the world.

Located in Greenwich Village, New York City, arguably the most beautiful quarter of Manhattan, The New School is ideal for creatives and international students with all the inspiration and necessities you need on your doorstep.

Parsons offers more than 30 degree programs across five schools: (1) School of Art and Design History and Theory, (2) School of Art, Media and Technology, (3) School of Constructed Environments, (4) School of Design Strategies, and (5) School of Fashion.

Key facts:

  • According to U.S. News & World Report, in 2014, The New School had a higher percentage of international students studying in the U.S. than any other U.S. university

  • Currently, students attending to The New School come from 116 foreign countries, so they’re no strangers to accepting international students

  • Of all the universities on this list, Parsons has the least competitive admissions rate, which was at 64% for 2016

  • Parsons offers financial aid to international students on a needs basis

5. University of the Arts, London (UAL)

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Located in the heart of London, UAL has six colleges within the university specialising in different fields of Art & Design including art, design, fashion, media, communication and performing arts. As its name suggests, UAL is located in London, which according to the QS World University Rankings, is considered the third best student city in the world. London's high student city ranking is based on desirability, affordability, graduate employment and student experience.

Key facts:

  • UAL offers six specialist schools within the college: art, design, fashion, media, communication and performing arts​

  • UAL offers over 100 courses in Art & Design

  • UAL has representation of international students from over 130 countries

  • Located in London, judged to be the third best student city in the world

6. Pratt Institute

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Offering students a choice of 27 majors and concentrations across four unique schools, including architecture, art, design, and liberal arts and sciences.

Pratt Institute is a highly desirable college for both its courses and its locations in Manhattan, New York City and Brooklyn, New York.

Given the liberal arts degrees available, students have the option to apply to Pratt Institute as "undecided" if they are unsure of their major in the Schools of Art and Design. This gives students with the passion and drive for design the opportunity to explore different fields before committing to a major.

Key Facts:

  • Pratt Institute attracts international students from more than 80 countries

  • 26% of Pratt's undergraduate students come from outside the United States

  • While the admission rate sits at a welcoming 66%, the main entry requirement is based on folio and merit and as such is competitive and difficult, despite the misleading acceptance rate

7. School of the Art Institute in Chicago

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SAIC offer courses at both undergraduate and graduate levels, covering an absolute smorgasbord of fields to study, from theory, to administration, film, design, fashion - the list goes on and on.

Additionally, SAIC also offers a liberal arts program, which emphasises the critical role that humanities, mathematics, and science plays in an artist's development. SAIC would be a great college to choose if you’re passionate about Art & Design, but open to a career in other fields.

Key facts:

  • SAIC has produced the most Fulbright Scholars over the last decade of all art and design schools

  • 30% of SAIC’s population are international students

  • Each year over 1000 international students are admitted into SAIC

  • SAIC has one of the highest acceptance rates of all the colleges on the list at 71%, however, the application process can be quite difficult to navigate

  • Undergraduate international students are eligible for merit-based scholarships, as are graduate international students, which are awarded during the admission process. However, international students are not eligible for need-based federal financial aid

=8. Stanford University

You’ve most likely heard of Stanford because of their world class Computer Science course, however, Stanford is more than just a STEM-focused college.

In fact, Stanford is so adamant that design and creativity plays a vital part in the progression of society that it has opened the Stanford d.school! The d.school is a 100% opt-in course for students and faculty members to explore their creativity and develop their design skills.

Stanford believe indulging your creativity and creative thinking can help you develop in areas such as problem solving, memory, and academia.

Key facts:

  • Nearly 70% of undergraduate students receive assistance toward tuition costs and about 85% of graduate students receive financial aid.

  • In Autumn(Fall) of 2017, Stanford had over 44,073 applicants, accepting just 2,050 students, making Stanford’s 2017 admission rate an extremely competitive 4.65%

  • Positive news for international students is that Stanford is committed to meeting demonstrated financial need for all admitted students who have requested financial aid during the application process, regardless of citizenship.

=8. Yale University

An Ivy League school offering a world-class art and design course might surprise you, but Yale is a place for creatives and academics alike.

Yale also offers Liberal Arts programs, allowing students to think and learn across many disciplines, not deciding on a major until their final year at college. This means exploring and uncovering your academic passions can shape your major during the time you study.

The college also is top of many other subject lists, meaning you can experience some of the world’s finest faculties and the world’s best classes - a rare luxury afforded at very few institutions. Attending Yale is ideal for the high achiever with a passion in many fields, not just Art & Design!

Key Facts:

  • At Yale, schools within the Art and Design realm have quite a high rate of international student enrolment. Architecture has a 28% international student rate, Art has a 26% international student rate and Music has a massive 44% international student rate

  • The 2017 applicant pool for the class of 2021 was the largest group of students ever to apply to Yale College reaching 32,900

  • In Autumn (Fall) 2017, Yale’s admission rate was a low 6.9%

  • Some promising news for hopeful Yale students, there are plans for two new residential colleges to open in the Autumn(Fall) of 2017. What this means is that future freshman classes will grow by approximately 15%.

10. Politecnico Di Milano

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Located in Milan, Italy, Politecnico Di Milano is the only university in the top 10 for Art & Design from outside of the US and UK. If fashion is your passion, then Politecnico Di Milano is definitely one to consider, given it’s located in Milan, one of the fashion capitals of the world! While located in Italy, there are several programs taught in English at various levels of education in three areas, Architecture, Design and Engineering.

Key facts:

  • Ranked in the top 10 European universities in five research areas: Architecture & Built Environment; Art & Design; Computer Science & Information Systems; Civil & Structural Engineering; Mechanical, Aeronautical & Manufacturing Engineering

  • Also placed in the top 50 universities in the world in six research areas: Architecture & Built Environment; Art & Design; Computer Science & Information Systems; Civil & Structural Engineering; Electrical & Electronic Engineering; Mechanical, Aeronautical & Manufacturing Engineering

  • With no application fee and yearly tuition fee of about $3,700USD per year, Politecnico Di Milano can be an extremely affordable option for non EU student

Final Thoughts

Now you've had a read about the best art and design colleges and universities in the world, why not take advantage of our free consultation service where we can discuss your options? Getting students placed in the top universities and colleges around the world is our specialty, we've placed thousands of students from all countries.

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