Whether you are an aspiring artist or a postgraduate fine art student seeking to find the best art school or university for you, you will benefit from this article! Below, we will take a look at the 15 best art schools and art universities that have been ranked by scholars and creatives around the world. We will take you through what makes each of these institutions stand out, as well as why many students aspire to get into these top institutions. Keep reading to learn more about these top 15 best art schools and universities!
Table of Contents
- 1 Where Did Art Schools Come From?
- 2 Ranked: 15 of the Best Art Schools in the World
- 2.1 University of Bologna (Est. 1088)
- 2.2 The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (Est. 1754)
- 2.3 The Faculty of Arts and Design; National Autonomous University of Mexico (Est. 1785)
- 2.4 Beaux-Arts de Paris (Est. 1816)
- 2.5 Royal College of Art (Est. 1837)
- 2.6 The Glasgow School of Art (Est. 1845)
- 2.7 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Est. 1861)
- 2.8 School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Est. 1866)
- 2.9 Rhode Island School of Design (Est. 1877)
- 2.10 Parsons School for Design; The New School (Est. 1896)
- 2.11 Emily Carr University of Art and Design (Est. 1925)
- 2.12 The Ibero-American University (Est. 1943)
- 2.13 Design Academy, Eindhover (Est. 1947)
- 2.14 Academy of Arts & Design; Tsinghua University (Est. 1956)
- 2.15 University of the Arts London (Est. 1986)
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
Where Did Art Schools Come From?
Many best art schools in the world offer some of the most rigorous and focused programs in art. But, where did the idea of art schools begin? The concept of an art school has been traced back to the Renaissance era, specifically in the 16th century, when one of the most popular art schools was founded. This school was called the Accademia del Disegno and was established in 1563 by the Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici and led by Giorgio Vasari. While older educational institutions like the University of Bologna existed, the art school was more formally unpacked in such academies as the Accademia del Disegno, which intended to help art professionals gain more success in their practices.
The Renaissance’s ethos around art education was to merge intellectual subjects with artistic talents across Europe and North America until the 19th century. It was then that art education expanded to include production, intellectual discourse, and concept.
The late-20th century introduced a large shift in how art education was approached. Schools began focusing not only on the creation of art but also the critical analyses and understanding of process work. Artists began to appreciate the richness of conceptualization and critique that became a pivotal feature of art programs across North America.
Today, art schools exist as educational hubs for artists to explore multiple disciplines like painting, photography, graphic design, digital art, illustration, and sculpture. Some of the best art schools also offer diverse programs that range from elementary courses to post-secondary levels and can include other fields like the liberal arts and sciences. The development of art school curricula has since evolved rapidly, however, still requires the feedback of its students to better the curricula and remain relevant to current societal changes.
Ranked: 15 of the Best Art Schools in the World
From America to the Netherlands, below you will discover our selection of the 15 best art schools and universities to date. Remember to follow up on additional research should you feel inclined to enroll in any of these institutions so that you are well-informed and prepared!
University of Bologna (Est. 1088)
|Tuition Fees ($/year)||3235.23 – 13,744.46|
The University of Bologna is the cornerstone of art education that has survived many centuries. Founded in 1088, the university is regarded as a crucial site of academic discourse and art education since it is the oldest university in the Western world. The art department at the university has a diverse program that encourages students to embrace the fields of literature, linguistics, archaeology, and history while drawing from ancient and modern literature. The university itself is ranked as one of the best places to study art in the world and offers a unique avenue for students to learn how to interpret ancient texts and analyze visual artworks.
The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (Est. 1754)
|Acceptance Rate||0 – 10%|
|Tuition Fees ($/year)||16,994.75|
If you are looking for the best art school in Denmark, then look no further than the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. The iconic art school boasts a legacy of more than 250 years of art education that is ranked in the top 30 best fine art education institutions in the world. At the academy, students are encouraged to hone their crafts through independent work structured in a globally oriented approach that assures artists of an enriching educational experience. Praised for its high standards, the academy offers free education for citizens of EU and Nordic countries and charges fees for UK nationals and students from non-EU and EEA countries around $16,994.75 per year.
The Faculty of Arts and Design; National Autonomous University of Mexico (Est. 1785)
|Location||Xochimilco, Mexico City|
|Tuition Fees ($/year)||952.78|
With an acceptance rate of 8%, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) has one of the best art schools in the world. Their faculty of arts and design known as the Facultad de Artes y Diseño is a playground of artistic excellence that was formerly known as the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas. The National Autonomous University of Mexico is widely recognized as the largest university in Latin America, located in Xochimilco, Mexico City, and boasts an impressive 4.5-star rating by its students.
The Facultad de Artes y Diseño is celebrated for its dedication to the education of artists and offers comprehensive programs spanning the mediums of painting, sculpture, and graphic design to equip undergraduate students for the graduate level. The institution is also recognized for its affiliation with most Mexican Nobel laureates, which solidifies its legacy in the intellectual and cultural realm. Even more appealing are the low tuition fees, in comparison to American fees, which makes art education more accessible.
The acceptance rate, however, stands at a low of 8%.
Beaux-Arts de Paris (Est. 1816)
|Tuition Fees ($/year)||463 – 528|
With alumni like Claude Monet and Auguste Rodin, the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts is one of the best art schools in Paris that is located in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The well-known art school holds a wealth of artistic education and heritage that includes the expertise of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. Admission into the institution is highly competitive and requires prospective students to possess a Baccalaureate or equivalent degree and a strong grasp of French, which is tested on the admission interview since all courses are taught in French.
Over five years, the curriculum covers various disciplines, from sculpture and engraving to architecture and painting. Students also learn academic subjects like the psychology of art therapy and art history. Additionally, the institution’s collection holds a source of 200 paintings for artistic inspiration from the Prix de Rome contestants, which helps motivate students to meet high standards.
Royal College of Art (Est. 1837)
|Location||London, United Kingdom|
|Tuition Fees ($/year)||11,856 – 20,000|
With an acceptance rate of 27.2%, the prestigious Royal College of Art is one of the best art universities in the world. It is situated in the heart of creative innovation, in London, and was first established in 1836 as a public School of Design. The famous art institution is recognized as the best art school for aspiring and postgraduate art students and was granted university status and the Royal Charter in 1967.
Since then, the university has received many, now famous artists, including Bridget Riley and David Hockney. Boasting a remarkable legacy in England, the Royal College of Art has also been ranked as the number one university for the field of art and design in the world and 9th place as per the 2023 QS World University Rankings by Subject. Every year, the university welcomes around 2,300 creatives from around the world, who are selected based on their merit and innovative portfolios. What makes it the best?
The art university is recognized for its dedication to nurturing talent and is commended for its wide range of postgraduate programs, including Master’s, MPhil, MRes, and PhD degrees.
The Glasgow School of Art (Est. 1845)
|Tuition Fees ($/year)||33,701 – 44,934|
The Glasgow School of Art is one of the best public art institutions in Glasgow and the greater United Kingdom that is celebrated by students for its range of facilities and impact on art in Scotland. Despite the school’s devastating June 2018 fire that destroyed its iconic grade A-listed building and an extensive restoration project, the University of Glasgow has remained an artistic hub.
Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building, photographed in 2005; No machine-readable author provided. Twid assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
What makes its legacy stand out is its influence on international art movements like the Art Nouveau period, which earned the institution its nickname as the Spook School. One of the collectives, The Glasgow Boys, is also affiliated with the school and was credited with introducing forms of Impressionism to Scotland in the late 19th century. The school’s alumni also include figures like Frank Quitely and Peter Capaldi, in addition to the many influential media personalities and actors beyond the contemporary visual arts.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Est. 1861)
|Location||Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States|
|Tuition Fees ($/year)||77,020|
Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the best art universities in the world that is home to some of the most highly esteemed degree programs spanning architectural design, art, culture, technology, comparative media studies, history, theory, and the criticism of architecture and art, music, theater arts, and writing.
The university also offers opportunities for specialized studies via various undergraduate minors in the above fields. Students also have access to the university’s List Visual Arts Center, which is a contemporary art museum that encourages and supports rigorous art projects. Among the many notable programs at the institution is the Communication Design program, which supports strategic design thinking and nurtures the values of empathy across social impact design.
It is no surprise that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ranks in fifth place on the QS World University Rankings for Art and Design.
School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Est. 1866)
|Tuition Fees ($/year)||54,530|
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago is among the best fine art universities in America that was first established in 1866 and has since remained a beacon for many talented creatives in the country. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago has an acceptance rate of 81% and is renowned for its commitment to art and design education. SAT scores are estimated between the average of 1120 and 1360 and between 22 and 29 for the average ACT score to secure a spot. The school is also regarded as one of the best-equipped art schools to foster academic excellence and is committed to reflecting a diverse and inclusive student body, as well as an anti-racist environment. While the tuition fees are above average in America, the school offers a transformative experience that aims to help students thrive in the fields of art and design.
Rhode Island School of Design (Est. 1877)
|Location||Providence, Rhode Island, United States|
|Tuition Fees ($/year)||77,280|
Situated in Providence, Rhode Island, the Rhode Island School of Design is recognized as one of the best private art schools in the United States. The famous art school has a 17 – 19% acceptance rate and prides itself on excellence and creativity. The Rhode Island School of Design also boasts alumni like Kara Walker and Julie Mehretu, while offering a range of specialization subjects such as photography, glassware, graphic design, and sculpture. In a study on the students’ happiness with the school, over 80% of the alumni expressed their satisfaction and pride in the education received at the institution. Furthermore, the stellar master’s program offered in fine arts helps its students hone the knowledge and skills needed in the professional world.
Parsons School for Design; The New School (Est. 1896)
|Location||Greenwich Village, New York City, United States|
|Tuition Fees ($/year)||50,800|
At Parsons, artists have the opportunity to maximize their creativity. Established in 1896, the renowned Parsons School of Design stands in the Greenwich Village of New York City and has since received numerous modern personalities from the likes of Jasper Johns to Alexander Calder. For more than a century, the prestigious private art and design institution has shaped the careers of many young designers and artists resulting in its global ranking as the third-best art college in the world by the QS World University Rankings by Subject in 2021.
With an acceptance rate of 50.7%, the Parsons School of Design is known to be moderately selective and values those who are willing to initiate change. Students can engage creatively with each other on both a local and international level while preparing themselves for the global arena. The school is praised for its interdisciplinary approach, which is expertly curated into various undergraduate, graduate, and executive education programs that aim to empower students across art, design, and business.
Emily Carr University of Art and Design (Est. 1925)
|Tuition Fees ($/year)||23,196.80|
The vibrant artistic landscape of Vancouver is home to one of the best art universities in Canada. The Emily Carr University of Art and Design was founded in 1925 and has since remained a leading institution in the fields of art, design education, and media. The university holds an acceptance rate of around 48% and is widely recognized for its competitive admission, which attracts many talented creatives from around the world.
Its dedication to art education has been described as unparalleled and offers various specialized, accredited, and public post-secondary programs that focus on art and design. According to the 2023 QS World University Ranking By Subject, the Emily Carr University of Art and Design ranks 25 and is the only university in British Columbia that is devoted to cultivating research and education in creative fields.
The Ibero-American University (Est. 1943)
|Location||Mexico City, Mexico|
|Acceptance Rate||70 – 79%|
|Tuition Fees ($/year)||950 – 19,500|
The famous Mexican university known as the Ibero-American University or Universidad Iberoamericana is the best fine art university in Mexico. The private and Catholic institution was sponsored by the Society of Jesus, Ibero, and won the 2009 SEP-ANUIES prize, making it the best institution in Mexico in 2009. The QS World University Rankings places the university at seventh in Mexico and within the top 800 universities in the world.
The university offers comprehensive art programs, including a Bachelor of Arts in Art History, a Master of Arts in Art Studies, and a doctorate in History and Critical Theory of Art. The influence of the university also extends to numerous collaborations with private entities, museums, and collections in addition to the existing active participation of the art department in local and international events. The art department is also dedicated to maintaining social relevance while fostering intellectual exchange.
Each year, the university also hosts global congresses to enrich the global art dialogue.
Design Academy, Eindhover (Est. 1947)
|Location||Eindhoven, the Netherlands|
|Acceptance Rate||30 – 40%|
|Tuition Fees ($/year)||2,649 – 10,600|
Situated in Eindhoven, the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands is the best fine art university in the country and has been globally ranked as one of the top 10 places to study art by the QS World University Rankings. With its distinct mission for ethos and inclusivity, the art academy welcomes learners from all backgrounds and encourages debate and difference. The institution was established in 1947 and was previously known as the Academie voor Industriële Vormgeving before evolving into the creative hub it is today.
De Witte Dame Campus; Romaine, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
The Design Academy Eindhoven hosts more than 700 students from around 40 countries while fostering opportunities for cultural exchange. The art academy is located in the iconic White Lady building, which was historically once a Philips lighting factory. At the heart of the school’s bachelor’s program is flexibility, which includes eight interdisciplinary departments. These span the fields of art, architecture, graphic design, fashion design, and industrial design, where students are encouraged to experiment with concepts from multiple departments.
Academy of Arts & Design; Tsinghua University (Est. 1956)
|Tuition Fees ($/year)||5466 – 9293|
Located in the prestigious Tsinghua University, the Academy of Arts & Design is recognized as one of the best art schools in China that was established in 1956 and later joined the university in 1999. With a steep acceptance rate of 2%, the university boasts a rich historical record of excellence on a national and global scale. The art academy is made up of 10 departments, including a Basic Teaching and Research Group with 20 undergraduate programs. The academy also offers the opportunity to pursue postgraduate programs in fields like art theory, calligraphy, and design within doctoral degrees.
The educators of the academy include influential artists, designers, and scholars, who help students navigate their scholarly pursuits. The vision behind the art school is focused on cultivating the individual talents of each artist and equipping them with a global perspective that will help them realize a sense of social responsibility. Through international collaborations in their Master of Science in Technology Innovation Program, students can embark on international experiences with the University of Washington in the United States, to engage in rigorous projects.
University of the Arts London (Est. 1986)
|Location||London, United Kingdom|
|Tuition Fees ($/year)||31,539.4|
With a consistent record of being ranked second in the world on the QS World University Rankings by Subject for Art and Design list, the University of the Arts London is an exclusive art institution that is dedicated to fostering the skills of those who wish to pursue careers in art, design, fashion, communication, performing arts, and media. The university is recognized for its diverse student body of around 21,000 students from 130 countries and has an acceptance rate of 25.67%. The campus is also fully equipped with state-of-the-art studios and resources that enable artists to fulfill their potential. While championing individual identity, the famous art university is also located in the dynamic city of London, where students will be surrounded by creativity and artistic opportunities.
These 15 art schools and universities continue to attract thousands of applicants who compete and persevere in the race to receive the best art education possible. By learning about the standards set by art institutions and the opportunities that they offer, you may be more motivated to pursue your artistic passions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Best Art School in the World?
The Royal College of Art in London has been ranked multiple times as the best art school in the world. The university is recognized as one of the most influential art institutions in the world and is also a public research university for art.
Which Art School Has a 100% Acceptance Rate?
The College of Liberal Arts of Metro State University, which is located in Saint Paul, Minnesota, is one well-known university that has a 100% acceptance rate. The university is the perfect institution for students looking for flexibility while pursuing theater.
Which Art School Has the Lowest Acceptance Rate?
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is identified as the art institution with the lowest acceptance rate out of all art and design schools in the world. The institute, which is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has an acceptance rate that varies between zero and eight percent per year.
Jordan Anthony is a film photographer, curator, and arts writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. Anthony schooled in Durban and graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, with a Bachelor of Art in Fine Arts. During her studies, she explored additional electives in archaeology and psychology, while focusing on themes such as healing, identity, dreams, and intuitive creation in her Contemporary art practice. She has since worked and collaborated with various professionals in the local art industry, including the KZNSA Gallery in Durban (with Strauss & Co.), Turbine Art Fair (via overheard in the gallery), and the Wits Art Museum.
Anthony’s interests include subjects and themes related to philosophy, memory, and esotericism. Her personal photography archive traces her exploration of film through abstract manipulations of color, portraiture, candid photography, and urban landscapes. Her favorite art movements include Surrealism and Fluxus, as well as art produced by ancient civilizations. Anthony’s earliest encounters with art began in childhood with a book on Salvador Dalí and imagery from old recipe books, medical books, and religious literature. She also enjoys the allure of found objects, brown noise, and constellations.
Cite this Article
Jordan, Anthony, “Best Art Schools in the World – Global Studios of Excellence.” Art in Context. November 14, 2023. URL: https://artincontext.org/best-art-schools-in-the-world/
Anthony, J. (2023, 14 November). Best Art Schools in the World – Global Studios of Excellence. Art in Context. https://artincontext.org/best-art-schools-in-the-world/