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12 Best Art Schools in the World


If you have a passion for art, there are some great college options out there for you! Art schools can provide you with the tools you need to develop your skills and make a career out of what you love.

In this article, I'll give you a list of the best art schools in the world, tell you what each of their programs is like, and give you some tips on how to choose the right one for you.


What Makes a Great Art School?

The best art schools are institutions that teach students to think creatively across disciplines and provide them with the instruction and resources that will enable them to fulfill their artistic potential. All the schools on this list are forward-thinking, well-respected colleges with constantly evolving curricula that always keep pace with changes in the art world. They have international name recognition and strong reputations as a result of the successes of their alumni.

These universities offer a variety of majors in artistic disciplines that will lead to fulfilling careers. They also have cutting edge facilities that allow students to make their visions a reality, whether that involves welding a giant metal sculpture or creating life-like 3D animations. Programs in the digital arts are prominent features of most of these colleges because knowledge of design programs and other art-making software is crucial in the current artistic landscape for students who hope to develop their practice into a career.

How these schools contribute to your life after college is important, too. The schools on this list provide excellent career counseling services to make the transition from student to professional as smooth as possible for their students. Many provide students with the opportunity to work at internships or in other professional development contexts while still in school so that they can build their experience and be prepared to take on the job world.

At a great art school, you'll be consistently inspired through interactions with some of the most interesting and creative people you'll ever meet. If you love art, these schools will help you develop your passion and take it to places you never even thought possible!


body_makeyourdreamscometrue.jpgMake your dreams a (sur)reality.


The Best Art Schools in the World

Without further ado, here's a list of the top twelve art schools in the world ranked by reputation and quality!


#1: Rhode Island School of Design—Providence, Rhode Island (US)

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,044
Acceptance rate: 20%

About the School:

RISD is considered by many to be the best art and design school out there. With distinguished faculty members, extensive resources for students, and a strong career services department, RISD offers pretty much anything you could want in an art and design education. RISD also has an associated museum with thousands of works in its collection that span different time periods, cultures, and media.


body_risd-1.jpgRhode Island School of Design


#2: School of the Art Institute of Chicago—Chicago, Illinois (US)

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,794
Acceptance rate: 57%

About the School:

School of the Art Institute of Chicago boasts a strong global reputation; its alumni include Georgia O'Keeffe, David Sedaris, and Edward Gorey (who is one of my favorite artists!). SAIC has an interdisciplinary curriculum, meaning that students are encouraged to experiment widely across artistic disciplines before deciding on the best medium for their ideas. The education at SAIC is highly customizable, encouraging students to be creative in combining different types of art.

Off-campus study is also required at SAIC. Students can fulfill this requirement through an internship program, study trip, or study abroad experience. This provides a bridge to the art world outside of college and helps students prepare for careers in the arts.


body_SAIC-1.jpgSchool of the Art Institute of Chicago


#3: California Institute of the Arts—Valencia, California (US)

Undergraduate enrollment: 959
Acceptance rate: 27%

About the School:

CalArts is an internationally recognized art school that encourages students to go beyond the boundaries of traditional media. It has a strong focus on individualized attention for each student. Students are also given a high level of creative freedom and independence in their studies—artistic promise is the number one criteria for admission.

CalArts also participates in the Community Arts Partnership, which gives students the opportunity to teach art to youth in Los Angeles while gaining experience and earning an income. The Institute provides resources such as internships and mentoring programs for students to help them translate their artistic skills into a career after college.


body_californiainstituteofthearts-1.jpgCalifornia Institute of the Arts


#4: Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design—London, England

Undergraduate enrollment: about 3,000
Acceptance rate: Not reported

About the School:

Central Saint Martins is a constituent college of the University of the Arts in London. It is considered one of the world's leading institutions in art and design education. The college offers nine different areas of study to students, including Graphic Communication Design, Fine Art, and Jewelry and Textiles.

Students are encouraged to develop their ideas beyond the accepted boundaries of each artistic discipline and to always be open to new approaches and ideas. Facilities include digital fabrication studios, letterpress studios, a digital media lab, an animation lab, and more.


body_centralstmartins.jpgCSM College of Art and Design


#5: Parsons School of Design at The New School—New York City, New York (US)

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,430
Acceptance rate: 51%

About the School:

The New School emphasizes a design thinking approach to solving problems on a global scale. Parsons is dedicated to remaining on the cutting edge of arts education; it strives to continually embrace new trends and interdisciplinary approaches to the arts. It also has a community service and social justice focus, encouraging design projects that have tangible outcomes in the world. Parsons provides one-on-one career counseling to students as well as connections to jobs and internships through the Center for Student Success.




#6: Berlin University of the Arts—Berlin, Germany

Enrollment: about 3,500
Acceptance rate: 20%

About the School:

The Berlin University of the Arts is the largest art school in Europe. Its faculty includes some of the most well-respected contemporary artists in the world, including Chinese artist and social activist Ai Weiwei. There are four colleges within the University system that specialize in Fine Arts, Music, Design, and Performing Arts.

Berlin University of the Arts has more than 170 international partnerships with other universities. The university hosts over 500 events every year and is a key cultural venue in the city. Students present their work to the public in exhibitions, concerts, dramatic productions, evenings of song, readings, and lectures.


body_berlinarts.jpgBerlin University of the Arts


#7: Pratt Institute—New York City, New York (US)

Undergraduate enrollment: 3,675
Acceptance rate: 60%

About the School:

Pratt is at the center of the New York art scene, and is consistently ranked among the top art and design colleges in the world. A highly distinguished faculty made up of leaders in artistic fields means that students will make meaningful connections to the art world during their time at Pratt. Career Counseling services are excellent and have a high job placement rate after graduation. Pratt also sits on a beautiful enclosed campus that gives students a sanctuary apart from the hectic city life.


body_prattinstitute-1.jpgPratt Institute


#8: Aalto Univerity—Espoo, Finland

Enrollment: 12,113
Acceptance rate: Not Reported

About the School:

Aalto University is a relatively new public university: it was created in 2010 after three universities (the Helsinki University of Technology, the Helsinki School of Economics, and the University of Art and Design Helsinki) merged into one. The goal was to create a university that fosters innovation across a number of disciplines, including engineering and business!

Despite being newer, the school has 90 different degree programs offered at the bachelors, masters, and PhD levels. Students have the opportunity to explore the intersection of technology, science, and art through interdisciplinary programs like Human-Centered Living Environments and Health and Wellbeing, which brings together neuroscience and design!

Aalto University offers programs in three languages, too: Finnish, English, and Swedish, too.



Aalto University
(Markus Säynevirta/Wikimedia)


#9: Glasgow School of Art—Glasgow, Scotland

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,620
Acceptance rate: under 20%

About the School:

Glasgow School of Art is Scotland's only public self-governing art school. It is divided into two campuses: the School of Fine Arts and the School of Design. GSA is at the head of research in creative disciplines, with research centers including the Digital Design Studio, the Institute of Design Innovation, the Mackintosh Environmental Architectural Research Institute, and the Glasgow Urban Lab.

Glasgow School of Art also has an extensive student and staff exchange program with about 75 of the world's leading Art, Design and Architecture schools. Numerous alumni have won the Turner Prize, the most prestigious award in the British art scene given to one artist under 50 every year.


body_glasgowschoolofart.jpgGlasgow School of Art


#10: China Central Academy of Fine Arts—Beijing, China

Enrollment: about 4,700
Acceptance rate: Not Reported

About the School:

The China Central Academy of Fine Arts is one of the most selective schools in China and is considered China's most prestigious art academy. It is made up of six specialty schools: the School of Fine Art, the School of Chinese Painting, the School of Design, the School of Architecture, the School of Humanities, and the School of Urban Design.

The School of Design has been heavily involved with national Chinese design projects, including designs for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Academy is also home to a huge museum that includes over 2,000 Chinese scroll paintings that date back to the Ming Dynasty.


#11: National School of Fine Arts—Paris, France

Undergraduate enrollment: Not reported
Acceptance rate: Not reported

About the School:

The National School of Fine Arts holds 450,000 items in its collections in the form of books and artworks; this is one of the largest public collections in France. Faculty and alumni include many internationally recognized artists. The five-year curriculum is made up of two consecutive "cycles," the first lasting three years and the second two years, in which students learn the fundamental practical and theoretical components of artistic creation.


body_parisarts.jpgNational School of Fine Arts—Paris


#12: Tokyo University of the Arts—Tokyo, Japan

Undergraduate enrollment: about 3,300
Acceptance rate: 30%

About the School:

As the only national arts university in Japan, Tokyo University of the Arts seeks to develop Japanese art and culture and emphasize a spirit of artistic freedom and creativity. Through collaboration with other universities and institutions, TUA works to create new forms of artistic expression and demonstrate the power of art to influence global trends. TUA also runs an exchange program with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


body_tokyouniversityoftheartsTokyo University of the Arts


Which Art School is the Right Choice for You?

It's difficult to decide on the right art school when there are so many great options out there. The first thing you should think about is location. Would you consider going to another state or country for college? Or would you prefer to stay closer to home? From there, you can decide which schools in the area of your choice appeal to you most. Are you looking for a city, suburban, or rural atmosphere?

One factor that sets many of these colleges apart is the level of specialization throughout the curriculum. For example, the Rhode Island School of Design requires a baseline course of study for all freshman before they're split up into their separate artistic disciplines sophomore year. But not all programs are like this: some art schools require you to pick an emphasis and get started with the learning process right away! Be sure you're paying attention to how your degree is structured to make sure it's a good fit for your goals.

It's also very important to consider whether each school offers the types of opportunities and facilities you want. If you're more design-oriented than fine art-oriented, you might consider a college like Parson's. This school has programs that focus on the practical application of design-thinking to solve problems in the real world. If you're hoping to spend some time studying abroad in college, you might think about School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which requires students to complete an off-campus study program.

The big takeaway is this: fully explore what each school has to offer before making a decision based on first impressions. What do you want to get out of your arts education? Consider the potential connections you'll form with faculty and the surrounding artistic community. This type of networking can be a huge help down the road. Schools in New York City like Pratt and Parsons have an advantage in this regard since they're located in one of the central hubs of the art world.

All of the schools on this list have great things to offer, but if you choose one that strongly appeals to your interests and provides the specific types of programs you're looking for, you'll be in for an amazing college experience.


What's Next?

If you want to apply to one of the best art schools in the world, you'll need to put together a portfolio. Learn more about how to create an art portfolio that showcases your strengths.

Are you still researching colleges (or haven't started yet)? If so, take a look at this guide to the college research process for some helpful tips.

If you're worried about paying for college, there are tons of scholarships out there for you. Read this article on the best scholarships you can win as a high school senior.


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Samantha Lindsay
About the Author

Samantha is a blog content writer for PrepScholar. Her goal is to help students adopt a less stressful view of standardized testing and other academic challenges through her articles. Samantha is also passionate about art and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College as a Studio Art major in 2014. In high school, she earned a 2400 on the SAT, 5's on all seven of her AP tests, and was named a National Merit Scholar.

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