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Best art schools in the world

14 May - 2021
by Alice Broeksma


Art professionals are sought after, particularly those who can apply skills in both fine arts and the commercial environment. Design today is often a strategic tool for improving companies and economies. Not underestimating the talent and skills of the self-taught, earning a degree confirms advanced abilities in art speciality subjects. Internationally recognised degrees are the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) and Master of Arts (MA). The latter is a good base for a career in, for instance, art teaching, leading positions in museums, publishing. The MFA program is the hands-on curriculum for aspiring artists, with art specialities such as drawing, painting, graphic design or visual communication. Choosing an art course is very personal and there is no such thing as the only right choice. Shop around, contact schools for more information about their programs and see what suits you. The world has fantastic art courses on offer. Here is a selection of arguably the best art academies: in Europe, America, Canada, Mexico, Asia, Australia.



Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp

Disciplines include ceramics, graphic design, jewellery/metal, painting/drawing, sculpture, textiles. Motto: ‘Free your artistic beast’.


(no longer in Europe, but near enough)


Royal College of Art, London

Postgraduate degrees in art and design. Programs include applied arts, ceramics/glass, jewellery/metal.


University of the Arts, London

Ranked among the world top 10 art schools, with six art colleges, including the world-famous Central Saint Martins Art and Design College, and the London College of Fashion. Large range of art and design courses, such as graphic design, 3D design, photography, fine art: painting/drawing, sculpture, visual arts, new media.




Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen

Well-known for its architecture and visual design program (visual communication/visual game design). Alumni include installation artist Jeppe Hein and filmmaker Jane Jin Kaisen.




Aalto University, Helsinki

Home to the Design Factory. Disciplines include art education, visual culture, curating and contemporary art. Arts & design, with programs in ceramics, glass, textiles, sculpture, drawing/painting, multi-material, 3D print.




École des Beaux-Arts (Bap), Paris.

National school of Fine Arts, 350 years old and world famous: Claude Monnet and Pierre Bonnard were students here. Courses nowadays include hypermedia. Artistic Practice Department with 29 studios. Drawing department; the material/space department groups the fresco, mosaic, molding, carving and painting techniques studios.


ENSCI-Les Ateliers, Paris

‘Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Creation Industrielle’. Founded in the 1980s, this prominent school specialises in industrial design, textile design and new design.


Pantheon-Sorbonne, Paris

Also known by its name Paris 1 and well-known for its courses in plastic arts, such as sculpting and ceramics. Programs include art and creation, contemporary creation, and (unique in France) aesthetics, art restauration.




Bauhaus University, Weimar

Art and design courses, disciplines include media art and design, visual communication. PhD program in art and design, the only one of its kind in Germany.

Berlin University of the Arts

This university is recognized worldwide for being one of the biggest and most diverse universities in the field of art and design, including programs in illustration, innovation/communication design, photography.

State Academy of Fine Arts, Stuttgart

Twenty courses in art, design and architecture. Fine arts: sculpture, digital and time-based art, photography, graphics (drawing/printmaking), glass design, installation art, ceramics, painting, performance art, video art.




Politecnico Milano

Largest university of its kind in Italy, in famous design city of Milan.

Schools of architecture, design, fashion. Disciplines include aesthetics, cultural and creative industries, design for cultural heritage, design history, museum studies, visual arts.


The Netherlands


Design Academy Eindhoven (DAE)

World famous for art programs in design, fashion design, graphic design, art, architecture.

DAE sees design as a global phenomenon with an increasing urgency to reform social structures and systems. With workshops specialising in 3D design, working with wood, metal, plastics, textiles, plaster, silkscreen printing, digital printing an imagery.


Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam

International university of applied sciences for fine arts and design. Programs available such as photography, moving image, ceramics, fine arts. 



University of Barcelona (UB)

One of Spain’s top universities in a great city of culture. The Faculty of Fine Arts has been active since the 1970’s. New bachelor degrees in fine arts and design.


Complutense University of Madrid (UCM)

With 80.000 students one of the largest universities in Europe. Prestigious and a big reputation in the fine arts. Faculties of Art History and Design. Disciplines include graphic design, painting/drawing, sculpture, new technologies.



United States of America

Source: Best Grad Schools – U.S. News & World Report – Rankings (2020), Top Ten

University of California (UCLA) – Los Angeles, CA

University (30.000 undergraduates) based in artsy centre of Los Angeles.

Fine arts, specialities: Painting/Drawing, Photography, Sculpture, Time-Based Media/Media


School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), IL

Largest accredited independent art school in the country.

Fine arts, specialities: Painting/Drawing, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture, Time-Based Media/Media


Yale University, New Haven, CT

Fine arts, specialities: Graphic Design, Painting/Drawing, Photography, Sculpture

Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA

Fine arts, specialities: Graphic Design, Painting/Drawing, Printmaking, Sculpture, Time-Based Media/New Media

California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA

Also known as CalArts. Private arts school.

Fine arts, specialities: Painting/Drawing, Photography, Sculpture, Time-Based Media/New Media

Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI

Fine arts, specialities: Ceramics, Graphic Design, Painting/Drawing, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture, Time-Based Media/New Media


Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

Fine arts, speciality: Time-Based Media/New Media


Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD

Fine arts, specialities: Graphic Design, Painting/Drawing, Sculpture


University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Fine arts program


Alfred University – New York State College of Ceramics, Alfred, NY

Fine arts, speciality: ceramics




Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Vancouver, British Columbia

Renowned for sustainable design program, co-op programs. Small student body.


Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD), Toronto

Largest and most comprehensive art, design and media university in Canada.

Home to Sharp Centre for Design. Disciplines include Painting/Drawing/Digital Painting/Expanded Animation, Integrated Media, Photography, Printmaking & Publications, Sculpture/Installation, Criticism & Curatorial Practice


Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec

Fine arts ranging from ceramics to fibre to studio art. Multidisciplinary focus.

Programs in the visual, performing, cinematic, design, digital, and therapeutic arts.


Nova Scotia for Art and Design (NSCAD), Halifax, Nova Scotia

On the east coast, and the oldest arts school in Canada. Disciplines include photography, film and fashion.




Universidad Ibericoamericana (IBERO), Mexico City

One of Mexico’s first private universities and the oldest Jesuit university.

Art programs include graphic design, history of art and fashion design


National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Mexico City

Largest university in Latin America and ranked the best in Latin America.

Founded in 1551, campus now a World Heritage Site featuring work of Diego Rivera.

Amongst programs: art and design, Virtual Reality





Tsinghua University, Beijing

China’s Tsinghua University in Beijing is ranked first in the country for all academics, including art and design. Xinya College is the undergraduate liberal arts school within the university.


Tongji University, Shanghai

Prestigious art programs. The school’s College of Design and Innovation has been around since the 1940s and was influenced by the German Bauhaus School of Art. Today, disciplines include design history, design theory and architecture.


The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

The Design School of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, PolyU Design, is the only school in Asia to have reached the list of the Top 25 Design Schools in the World.




Tokyo University of the Arts (TUA)

National arts university emphasising Japanese art and culture, and a spirit of artistic freedom and creativity. Collaboration with other universities, to create new forms of artistic expression and demonstrate the power of art in the international environment.


South Korea

Seoul National University

The most prestigious school in South Korea, Seoul National University offers a BFA program in design through its College of Fine Arts. The school is particularly well-known for its work in plastic arts. Departments of painting, oriental painting, sculpture, crafts and design.




Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT)

Seen as the number one university for art & design in Asia Pacific.

Fine and visual art, photography.

University of New South Wales, Sydney

With the largest community of art and design in Australia.

Three main areas: media, fine arts and design.

Amongst study options: digital designing, branding, arts writing, photography

University of Sydney

Amongst study options: art curating, visual arts, UX design, digital media production.


University of Technology Sydney (UTS)

Campus in historical area, university with Indigenous commitment.

Amongst study options: animation, fashion and textiles, visual communications, product design, photography.


University of Melbourne

Named as one of the top twenty faculties in the world of Arts by QS World University Rankings by Subject (2020).

Amongst study options: fine arts, visual art, animation.

Image header: Gerrit Rietveld Academie en Sandberg Instituut - Jeroen Verrecht