The 10 Best Art Schools in the World

There are hundreds of highly-regarded art schools all across the globe. Depending on the specific concentration on which a budding artist seeks to focus, some options may be better than others. 

Our picks art schools span the continents of Australia, Europe, Asia, and North America, with many being some of the oldest and most reputable art institutes within their respective nations.

In addition to having an elite reputation, the best art schools in the world are also located in thriving, bustling cities. Places like Copenhagen, Beijing, Melbourne, and New York City are sure to provide inspiration and opportunities for collaboration. 

Here is our list of 10 of the best art schools in the world, encompassing a variety of media. From animation and moving images, architecture, and sculpture to metalworking, ceramics, and fashion design, there is a program for artists of all kinds.

RMIT School of Art (Melbourne, AU)

RMIT School of Art
Public domain photo by Donaldtong via Wikimedia Commons

Established in 1917, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s School of Art holds the position for best art school in Australia, according to the 2019 and 2020 QS World University Rankings. 

Students attending RMIT will undoubtedly enjoy their time in Melbourne, often regarded as one of the most livable cities in the world.

RMIT is also one of Australia’s top 5 universities for international exchange, with programs in Vietnam, Israel, Austria, Finland, and Mexico, to name a few.

The Contemporary Art and Social Transformation (CAST) is the school’s key research group, and it leads collaborative, communal art projects in fields like public art, creative care, and art and ecology, with a particular interest in how artistic methods intersect with issues of equity, access, and democracy. 

RMIT additionally works with INTERSECT, a program made up of six creative projects that include exhibitions, artist residencies, creative labs, talks, and other events. 

Notable RMIT alumni include Charles Billich, whose images have hung in the White House; Stuart Devlin, a metalworker who designs silver and gold coins for countries worldwide; and Grahame King, known as the patron saint of contemporary Australian printmaking.

Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (Copenhagen, DK)

First inaugurated in 1754 as a gift to King Frederik V on his birthday, the Royal Danish Academy’s approach currently integrates academic and artistic research with professional practice, discovery, invention, and creation.

The Royal Danish Academy offers distinct Bachelor’s programs in concentrations like architecture and design, pictorial art, graphic conservation, and visual design and interaction. 

Architecture, design, and conservation are major focal areas at the Royal Danish Academy, and students can enroll in three-year, world-class Ph.D. research courses in those focuses.

Prior to applying, international students should be aware that all bachelor’s degree programs are taught in Danish. 

At the Royal Danish Academy, there is also a strong emphasis on collaboration among institutes and programs in places like Morocco, China, and the United States. 

Many successful artists, architects, and designers hail from the Royal Danish Academy. 

Caspar David Friedrich is considered to be the most important German artist of his generation and best known for mid-period allegorical landscapes. 

Arne Jacobsen is an architect and furniture designer who has enjoyed success for his simple, well-designed chairs. 

Jørn Oberg Utzon is responsible for the design of the Sydney Opera House.

National School of Fine Arts (Paris, FR)

Originated in 1648, the National School of Fine Arts (referred to as the Beaux-Arts de Paris in France) offers two levels of admission: entrance into the first year and entrance into a course of study. The admissions process for the initial year involves an interview along with a drawing test and culture and analysis test.

The undergraduate degree includes an examination of the student’s educational file, the presentation of a selection of significant artistic works from their three years of study, and an interview with the jury — this process is conditional for moving forward to the fourth year, which is designed to be a transitional year into professional life. Students are recommended to pursue professional internships at this time. 

Studies at the National School of Fine Arts are divided into six departments: artistic practice, technical skills, printing and multiples, material/space, drawing, theoretical study, and language. 

The school offers a New Amateurs Academy for adolescents ages 13-16 to take workshops in drawing, painting, mosaics, ceramics, engraving, modeling, and storyboarding. 

Some of Europe’s most famous artists were trained at the National School of Fine Arts, including Pierre-Auguste Renoir, known for his paintings, and Edgar Degas, who drew with pastels and oils. 

Other notable alumni include the American architect David Adler, and fashion designers Valentino and Hubert de Givenchy.

Central Academy of Fine Arts (Beijing, CN)

Central Academy of Fine Arts
MNXANL, Central Academy of Fine Arts, CC BY-SA 4.0

First established in 1918, the Central Academy of Fine Arts is one of the most selective schools in China, turning away over 90% of its annual applicants. 

The academy is divided into eight specialty schools that focus on the following subjects: Chinese painting, plastic arts, experimental art, arts administration and education, design, architecture, humanities, and urban design. 

The China Central Academy of Fine Arts offers 20 undergraduate majors in specific concentrations like digital media art, clothing and apparel design, environmental design, and sculpture. 

It also houses one of the largest professional libraries in China, with over 360,000 books and paintings. 

Many distinguished artists studied at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts: Beohar Rammanohar Sinha, whose illustrations appear in the original final manuscript of the Constitution of India; Wang Chunchen, one of China’s most distinguished curators, art critics, and historians; and Wu Guanzhong, recognized as the founder of modern Chinese painting.

Royal College of Art (London, EN)

Royal College of Art
Shadowssettle, Royal College of Art from Jay Mews, CC BY-SA 4.0

Founded in 1837, the Royal College of Art ranks 1st in art and design, according to the QS World University Rankings. 

The RCA has five schools that concentrate on architecture, arts and humanities, communication, design, and the MRes RCA.

The MRes is a Master of Research program – a groundbreaking degree prompting a critical investigation in the disciplines and future of art and design research. The program encourages interdisciplinary projects in collaboration with the four other RCA schools and various local, regional, and global partners.

The Royal College of Art offers classes in unique subjects like textiles, moving images, industrial design, and curation. Applicants should know that RCA does not offer any bachelor’s degree programs – only Master’s and Ph.D. programs are available.

Interested candidates must complete an application sharing their predicted or achieved performance in previous qualifications, proof of English proficiency, and employment history. 

They must also submit a portfolio that includes files of work and written explanations or descriptions, a 300-word written statement about their motivation to study, a written reference, and a critical challenge (a short video talking about their personal creative journey).

While RCA does not offer Bachelor’s programs, they do host short courses, ranging from 2 days to 3 weeks, which involve group work and exercise in a live, synchronous online environment. 

Short courses feature noteworthy guest speakers and are aimed at postgraduate or undergraduate students preparing for MA study, career changers, professionals, and anyone without formal training who wishes to pursue study in art and design.

Highly successful artists, filmmakers, and designers were educated at RCA, including film director Ridley Scott, inventor of the dual cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner Sir James Dyson, fashion designer Dame Zandra Rhodes (who created looks for Princess Diana and Freddie Mercury), and Gertrude Jekyll, a garden designer who created over 400 gardens in the UK, Europe, and the US.

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

Founded in 1866, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s core values include exploration, the inseparability of meaning and making, artistry and scholarship, Chicago, and making history. 

The institution has been granted many awards and accolades. 

Most recently, they were named the most influential art school by the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University, and the second-best overall graduate program for fine arts in the US by the 2020 and 2021 US News and World Report.

The Institute ranks 7th globally by QS World University Rankings by Art and Design, #1 of the top 25 animation schools in the midwest by the Animation Career Review, and the leading graphic design school of 2020. It is also the top producer of Fulbright Scholars among all art and design schools.

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago is the oldest accredited independent school of art and design in the U.S. and hosts the largest school-museum campus in the nation. They offer subjects in art therapy, new media, interior architecture, printmaking, and visual arts, to name only a few.

Application requirements include a portfolio that gives a sense of the applicant, their interests, and their willingness to experiment, explore, and think beyond technical skills. 

Candidates are asked to submit 10-15 of their best and most recent works across any media or focused in one medium, a 250-500 word artist’s statement describing the impetus behind the portfolio and the process, transcripts from high school, and one letter of recommendation. 

School of the Art Institute of Chicago alumni are recognized worldwide and include figures like animator Walt Disney, fashion designer Cynthia Rowley, and filmmaker Orson Welles.

Glasgow School of Art (Glasgow, SC)

Founded in 1845, the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland has produced 30% of Turner Prize nominees – the Turner Prize is an annual award given to a British visual artist, and only four artists are shortlisted for the prize each year.

GSA offers19 undergraduate degrees in topics like 3D modeling, design for health and wellbeing, games and virtual reality, and silversmithing and jewelry.

Glasgow’s most illustrious alumni tend to focus on animation and filmmaking and include Peter Capaldi, actor and Oscar winner for the short film category; Iain McCaig, illustrator and Hollywood storyboard artist; and Norman McLaren, Oscar-winning animator and filmmaker.

The New School Parsons School of Design (New York, NY)

Parsons School of Design
Beyond My Ken, Parsons David Schwartz Fashion Education Center 560 Seventh Avenue, CC BY-SA 4.0

Founded in 1896, the New School Parsons School of Designs (typically referred to as “Parsons”) is the first of its kind to offer programs in fashion design, advertising, interior design, and graphic design. In 2021, Parsons ranked 3rd in the QS World University Rankings for Art and Design.

The first year at Parsons is designed to integrate creation and reflection on studio work, immersion in a range of art and design concepts, skills, and critical practices, and application of systems thinking and problem-solving methods to creative challenges.

For the BFA, students take integrated studio and seminar courses, as well as sustainable systems, space/materiality, and drawing/imaging in their first semester. In the second semester, they continue with the integrative studio and seminar, and additionally enroll in time, objects as history, and a program elective.

Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, RI)

Rhode Island School of Design
DanielPenfield, RISD auditorium, CC BY-SA 3.0

RISD, founded in 1877, is affiliated with Brown University and offers cross-registration, as well as dual degree programs at the graduate and undergraduate levels. 

RISD is ranked 4th in Art & Design programs by the QS World University Rankings and was recently named one of the top producers of US Fulbright Scholars by the Chronicle of Higher Education

All undergraduate students take first-year studies in Experimental and Foundation studies, followed by a major course of study in a fine arts or design discipline beginning in their sophomore year. 

The school offers 16 undergraduate degrees in topics like furniture design, illustration, ceramics, glass, film, animation, and video. Students can also add liberal arts or interdisciplinary concentrations to their majors, like computation, technology and culture, or literary arts and studies.

To apply to RISD, interested candidates submit the common app, transcripts, optional tests like the SAT/ACT, and a portfolio including 12-20 examples of their best, recent work that shows their range. 

Additionally, they are asked to provide a 650-word college essay, 1-3 letters of recommendation, and “The Assignment,” an opportunity to demonstrate how they think and make. 

Students must choose one pair of the following options and create a piece that illustrates how the ideas are in conversation with one another: ephemeral/tangible, complexity/contradiction, chaos/order.

Alumni have also produced 10 MacArthur Fellows, reserved for artists who demonstrate remarkable creativity and potential for future accomplishments.

University of the Arts London (London, EN)

University of the Arts London - Wimbledon College of Arts
Ualwebsupport, Wimbledon College of Arts, CC BY-SA 4.0

The University of the Arts of London first existed as seven independent colleges that were all established between 1850 and the early 1900s. 

The school became a single entity in 1988 and specializes in programs dedicated to the arts, design, fashion, and performing arts.

Students can take classes in 20 study subjects, including accessories, footwear and jewelry, creative computing, fashion communication, and performance and design for theater and screen. 

To apply, students first choose a foundation/pre-degree course, read the entry requirements for that pathway, and begin their application. 

The University of the  Arts is currently ranked #2 for art and design by the QS World University Rankings. They have produced over 40% of all Turner Prize winners and over two-thirds of British Designers of the Year are UAL alumni.