Hundreds of excellent art institutions can be found in every region of the world. Some choices may be better than others depending on the area of expertise a budding artist wishes to develop.
Our chosen art schools are located in Australia, Europe, Asia, and the United States, and represent some of the oldest and most prestigious art institutions in their respective regions.
The most prestigious art institutions tend to be found in dynamic, crowded urban centers. Inspiration and opportunities for collaboration are sure to be found in cities like Copenhagen, Beijing, Melbourne, and New York.
Here are 10 of the finest art institutions anywhere, catering to every artistic discipline imaginable. Artists of all stripes can find a suitable program here, with categories ranging from moving image and animation to architecture and sculpture to metalwork, ceramics, and fashion design.
Best art schools in the world
Design Academy Eindhoven
The Design Academy Eindhoven, the country’s first institution dedicated to industrial design education, is also on the list, tied for ninth place.
In order to become designers who are both critical and socially engaged, prospective students can look forward to being exposed to a variety of design perspectives. Contextual design, social design, and the critical inquiry lab are all examples of graduate-level programs.
One of the most significant showcases of emerging designers’ work is the annual graduation show at the Design Academy Eindhoven. During Dutch Design Week each year, thousands of people flock to Eindhoven to see the culmination of the work of hundreds of bachelor’s and master’s degree students.
The Pratt Institute, a place where aspiring artists and designers can flourish, comes in at number seven. The Brooklyn-based private college features a wide variety of bachelor’s programs, including, but not limited to, graphic design/illustration, photography, and fine arts (with concentrations in jewelry, fine art painting/drawing/printmaking/sculpture, and so on).
Pratt Institute’s New York City setting is, arguably, a major selling point for the school. New York is a global leader in many areas, including the arts, and is thus ranked 18th on the QS list of the Best Student Cities.
New York is home to some of the world’s finest art museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Guggenheim.
Aalto University is widely regarded as a Nordic leader when it comes to art and design education, and it has maintained its sixth-place ranking this year. The Bachelor Programme in Design at the university develops environmentally conscious solutions in keeping with the ethos of Finnish and Scandinavian design, making it an excellent option for those interested in sustainable design.
Aalto University and Aalborg University (in Denmark) offer a joint master’s degree program called the Nordic Master in Visual Studies and Art Education (NM NoVA).
Students at Aalto University spend their second year of study in Denmark at Aalborg University, where they can participate in an internship, create a portfolio, or deepen their theoretical understanding of the field. This program may be ideal for those who want to gain international experience.
Prospective students can rest assured knowing that Aalto University is among the world’s top 150 schools, tied for 116th place.
University of the Arts London
UAL (University of the Arts London) comes in at number two. The UK university, which consists of six colleges (one of which is the highly regarded Central Saint Martins), provides instruction in fields as diverse as sound design and fashion pattern making.
Over two-thirds of British Designer of the Year winners are UAL alumni, including four-time winner Alexander McQueen and its most recent winner, Daniel Lee, demonstrating the school’s illustrious reputation in practice. In addition, since the Turner Prize was established in 1984, more than 40% of all winners have come from this institution.
London is one of the best cities in the world to get a truly international education, and it is ranked first in the world by QS Best Student Cities. It’s easy to see why London, the UK’s capital, is so popular with aspiring artists, with venues like the Tate Modern, The National Portrait Gallery, and the Victoria and Albert Museum (most of which offer free admission).
California Institute of the Arts
CalArts is a prestigious art institution that pushes its students to think outside the box of conventional art forms. Each student receives a great deal of individualized focus. Students are also given extensive leeway to pursue their own educational goals; the ability to demonstrate artistic promise is the primary admissions criterion.
Students at CalArts can gain professional experience and financial compensation by teaching art to underprivileged children in Los Angeles through the Community Arts Partnership. Internships and mentoring programs are just two of the ways the Institute helps college students turn their artistic interests into sustainable careers.
Berlin University of the Arts
Berlin’s art school, University of the Arts, is Europe’s largest. Artist and social activist Ai Weiwei of China is among its faculty of world-renowned contemporary artists. Within the University system, there are four schools dedicated to the visual and performing arts alone.
Berlin University of the Arts has partnered with over 170 universities around the world. The university serves as a major cultural hub for the city, playing host to more than 500 events per year. Undergraduates often give public presentations of their work in the form of exhibitions, concerts, plays, musical evenings, readings, and lectures.
Glasgow School of Art
The Glasgow School of Art is the only publicly funded and independently run art institution in all of Scotland. Two distinct departments—Fine Arts and Design—occupy separate locations. Research centers such as the Digital Design Studio, the Institute of Design Innovation, the Mackintosh Environmental Architectural Research Institute, and the Glasgow Urban Lab place GSA at the forefront of academic inquiry across the arts and design fields.
About seventy-five of the best art, design, and architecture schools from around the world participate in Glasgow School of Art’s extensive student and faculty exchange program. The Turner Prize is the most prestigious award in British art, and many of our alums have taken home the trophy.
RMIT School of Art
Picture by Donaldtong in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The QS World University Rankings for 2019 and 2020 both place the School of Art at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, which was founded in 1917, as the best art school in Australia.
RMIT students are fortunate to be located in Melbourne, widely considered to be one of the world’s most livable cities.
Among the top five universities in Australia, RMIT offers international exchange programs in a variety of countries, including Vietnam, Israel, Austria, Finland, and Mexico.
The Contemporary Art and Social Transformation (CAST) is the primary research unit at this institution. They organize group art projects that focus on equity, access, and democracy through mediums like public art, creative care, and art and ecology.
Exhibitions, artist residencies, creative labs, talks, and other events are just some of the ways RMIT and INTERSECT collaborate on the creative process.
Artist Charles Billich, whose work has been displayed in the White House, metalsmith Stuart Devlin, who has designed silver and gold coins for countries around the world, and printmaker Grahame King are all RMIT alums who have gone on to achieve international renown.
National School of Fine Arts
The National School of Fine Arts (also known as the Beaux-Arts de Paris in France) was founded in 1648 and accepts students at two different stages of enrollment: freshman year and full enrollment. An interview, as well as a drawing test and a culture and analysis test, are required for freshman admission.
The final year of undergraduate study is meant to be a transitional year into professional life, so it involves a review of the student’s educational file, the presentation of a selection of significant artistic works from the previous three years of study, and an interview with the jury. Undergraduates should actively seek out internships in the working world right now.
There are six different areas of study available to students at the National School of Fine Arts: artistic practice, technical skills, printing and multiples, material/space, drawing, theoretical study, and language.
Teenagers between the ages of 13 and 16 can enroll in the New Amateurs Academy and participate in classes like drawing, painting, mosaic making, ceramics, engraving, modeling, and storyboarding.
The National School of Fine Arts educated many well-known European artists, such as the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir and the pastelist and oil painter Edgar Degas.
Fashion designers Valentino and Hubert de Givenchy also attended the school, and American architect and designer David Adler is a graduate.
Royal College of Art
Royal College of Art, Shadowssettle by Jay Mews, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
The QS World University Rankings place the Royal College of Art, which was established in 1837, at the top of the list for art and design.
Architecture, the Arts and Humanities, Communication, Design, and the MRes RCA are just some of the fields covered by the RCA’s five schools.
Master of Research, or MRes, programs are innovative in nature, encouraging students to critically examine the fields and prospects of art and design research. The program promotes cross-disciplinary work with the other four RCA schools as well as other regional, national, and international organizations.
Textiles, moving images, industrial design, and curation are just some of the unusual topics covered at the Royal College of Art. Applicants should be aware that the Bachelor of Arts degree is not offered at RCA; only the Master’s and Doctoral degrees are presented.
Prospective employees need to submit an application detailing their educational background, language skills, and work experience.
They must also submit a portfolio with files of work and written explanations or descriptions, as well as a critical challenge (a short video talking about their personal creative journey), a written reference, and a 300-word written statement about their motivation to study.
Although RCA does not provide Bachelor’s degrees, they do offer shorter courses that range from 2 days to 3 weeks and feature live, synchronous online group work and exercise.
These short courses are designed for people who don’t have the time to commit to a full MA program, but who are interested in pursuing a career in art and design anyway.
Ridley Scott, inventor of the dual cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner Sir James Dyson, Dame Zandra Rhodes (who designed outfits for Princess Diana and Freddie Mercury), and Gertrude Jekyll (garden designer who created more than 400 gardens in the UK, Europe, and the US) are just a few of the famous artists, filmmakers, and designers who received their education at RCA.
When there are so many excellent choices, picking the best art school can be challenging. Location should be your first concern. Is attending university in a different country or state something you’d think about? Or would you rather not venture too far away from home? There, you’ll be able to pick and choose among the institutions available in the region of your choice. Where do you want to live: in the city, the suburbs, or the country?
Many of these universities are distinguished by the depth of their curricular specialization. At the Rhode Island School of Design, for instance, first-year students are required to take a common core curriculum before they are divided into their respective art departments in the second year. However, some art schools demand that students choose a concentration right away and begin their studies. If you want your degree to help you achieve your goals, you should pay close attention to how it is organized.
It’s also crucial to think about whether or not each institution provides the resources and experiences you’re seeking. You should look into schools like Parson’s if you’re interested in design but not fine art. At this university, you can take classes that teach you how to use design thinking in the real world. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago requires all students to participate in an off-campus study program, making it a good option for those interested in studying abroad during their college career.
The most important thing to remember is not to judge a book by its cover when choosing a college. What do you hope to gain from studying the arts? Think about the relationships you could develop with professors and the local arts scene. In the long run, connections made in this way can prove invaluable. New York City is one of the world’s cultural capitals, giving schools like Pratt and Parsons a leg up in this respect.
While your college experience will be fantastic at any of the institutions on this list, it will be especially rewarding at the institution that best fits your interests and needs.