Top 10 Art Schools in the World

Is your heart set on pursuing a career in art? Take a look at the finest art schools in the world.

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

Student thinking of top art school in the world

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Whether you’re a painter, photographer, filmmaker or designer, there are numerous art schools out there that will allow you to refine your talents and build a successful art career.  

That said, deciding which school to attend can be an overwhelming process.

Lucky for you, we have compiled a guide of the best art schools in the world, based on QS' latest world ranking.

10. Pratt Institute

The Pratt Institute, established in 1887, is one of the leading arts and fashion design schools in the US and the world. Its main campus is located in Brooklyn, but it has satellite campuses in Manhattan and Utica.

The school offers several programmes, including fine arts, interior design, architecture, and industrial design. However, it is best known for its art school, which is frequently ranked in the top ten in the nation. It has an acceptance rate of about 56%.

Teaching is in person and requires full-time participation. Hands-on experience is provided in every facet of fine arts, including graphics.

Notable alumni include Harvey Feinstein, Joseph Barbera, Martin Landau, Rob Zombie and Robert Redford.

9. Glasgow School of Art

The Glasgow School of Art was founded in 1845 and is one of the oldest and highest-ranked art schools in Europe. It offers undergraduate and graduate programmes in the fine arts.

Because of its exceptional art curriculum, it only has an acceptance rate of 20%. Learning is both hands-on training and field experience. Studio-based learning is undertaken to develop creative thinking in students.

Notables of the Glasgow School of Arts include painters Ann Dunlop Alexander, Janet Macdonald Aitken and Lena Alexander.

8. School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC)

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) opened its doors nearly 150 years ago and offers one of the most top-rated programmes in North America.

Located in downtown Chicago, the school offers an interdisciplinary approach to the fine arts and design. Its cutting-edge facilities, solid interdisciplinary curriculum, and renowned faculty focus on offering hands-on training, and real-world art exposure to all students, allowing them to develop practical experience by the time they graduate.

With an acceptance rate of about 57%, the college has been a leader in educating and producing future generations of designers, artists and scholars.

Notable alumni include Richard Hunt, Michelle Grabner, Elizabeth Murray, Nick Cave and Leroy Neiman.

7. Aalto University

Located in Espoo, Finland, Aalto University was established in 2010 after the merge of three top Finnish universities.

Currently, it’s rated as one of the top arts and design schools in Europe. Students are trained in product design, art system augmentation and creative development. With only 200 positions available, entrance is extremely competitive, and only one out of 11 applicants are accepted. But once you’re in, students thrive in the open atmosphere and have exhaustive opportunities to visit art galleries and museums across Scandinavian countries.

Notable alumni include architect Alvar Aalto and designer Tapio Wirkkala.

6. Politecnico di Milano

Put simply, Politecnico di Milano is one of the best art schools in the world.

Established in 1863, it is the largest university in Italy, offering training in architecture, design, and engineering. The primary object of the arts programme is to induce creativity in students.

Teaching is conducted through multi-format media that utilises the power of videos, lectures, webinars and first-hand visits to museums. Meanwhile, the acceptance rate is around 60%.

Notable alumni from the Politecnico de Milano include architect Gae Aulenti, Enrico Castiglioni, Elio, Giovani Pellegrini and Marco Zanuso.

5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Wait a minute. Doesn’t the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) only churn out computer engineers, physicists, and robotic designers? Not quite - it is a huge college with many departments, including art and design.

The art department offers training in film, photography, public art and robotic design. There are ample opportunities and degree types for students to create art in multilevel media formats. The MIT School of Art is one of the most competitive programmes in the world, with an acceptance rate of only 7%. A degree in art from MIT is guaranteed to open up opportunities in almost any art field.

Notable alumni include Daniel Chester, Cass Gilbert, Gordon Burnshaft, IM Pei, and many others.

4. Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) was founded in 1877. Over the years, it has established itself as one of the leading art and design schools in North America. It also has many international students enrolled in its programmes.

Located in Providence, Rhode Island, RISD offers creative education in the fine art and design. Hands-on experience is provided by frequent travels to two major cultural cities: New York and Boston. Admission is difficult as the college only has a 25% acceptance rate, and candidates must have top ACT grades to be considered.

Notable alumni of RISD include Do Ho Suh, Roni horn, Shahzia Sikander, Kara Walker and Todd Hido.

3. Parsons School of Design

Parsons School of Design at The New School was founded in 1896 and is considered to be one of the best art schools in the US.

This private college is located just outside Lower Manhattan in New York City and offers a unique approach to real-world interdisciplinary learning to both its undergraduates and postgrads. It is a competitive school to enter, with an acceptance rate of only 35%.

Alumni include some of the top leaders in design, art and fashion such as Alexander Wang, Kay Unger, Jason Wu, Sophie Buhai, Donna Karan and Anna Sui.

2. University of the Arts London

University of the Arts London is a relatively new art school, founded in 1986. But in this short period, it has managed to rank as the second-best art and design school in the world.

With an acceptance rate of only 20%, it boasts six campuses, all within central London. In addition to offering individual training, there is solid exposure to modern and robotic arts, with an emphasis on design.

Notable graduates include Richard Hamilton, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Antony Gormley and Phoebe Philo.

1. The Royal College of Art

The Royal College of Art is reputed to be one of the best art and design schools in the world.

Founded in 1837, the school has exceptional standards and only accepts the most talented students in its postgraduate training programme. It has an acceptance rate of about 25%, with more than half of the students being international.

With three campuses, all located within the city of London, individual training and supervision are provided to each student with significant on-field exposure to art and design.

Numerous renowned artists have graduated from this school, including Chris Dresser, Sir George Clausen, Kate Greenaway, Sir Luke Fides and Edwin Lutyens. Perhaps your name will be on that list one day, too!

Final thoughts

In this day and age, art has become critical to our survival, functioning as a means of expression.

If you are an aspiring artist, who wishes to hone their craft, then you have plenty of options available at your fingertips. By enrolling in one of these prominent art schools, you will be guaranteed superior education and excellent opportunities that will help you take your first steps into the world of art.

So, it’s time to grab your portfolio, pick a university, choose an artistic route and start creating!

Which of these art schools is your dream school? Let us know in the comments section below!