So you want to go to art school, but you’re not sure where exactly to apply? You’re not alone. There’s a lot of factors in play when choosing which art school to attend, from program and course offerings to campus vibes and location.
Best Art Schools in North America: Best Art Schools in the United States
Art Schools in New York
Parsons the New School For Design
New York, New York
It is no surprise that New York City, one of the world’s ultimate art capitals, is home to one of the best art schools in the world. Parsons the New School For Design, commonly just referred to as Parsons, was a trailblazer in graphic design and fashion programs. Its prestigious reputation continues to this day, and the school boasts an impressive student-teacher ratio of 9:1.
New York, New York
The Pratt Institute is a private university located in Brooklyn that is well-known for its research-intensive programs in architecture and design. The Pratt Institute also consistently ranks as one of the best art colleges in the US. The school prides itself on teaching practical skills and encouraging their budding artists’ visions.
Art Schools in California
California Institute of the Arts
Also known as CalArts, the California Institute of the Arts is a private arts school that grants degrees in disciplines ranging from art and critical studies to theater and music. The school’s’ graduate programs are very highly respected.
University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California
The University of California, Los Angeles—or UCLA, as it is better known—may be a larger school than many other options on this list (it has an undergraduate student body of over 30,000), but there are advantages to a larger student body: can you say “networking opportunities”? Located in artsy central Los Angeles, UCLA offers several top art programs in areas like drawing, sculpture, and new media.
Art Schools in Philadelphia
Moore College of Art and Design
The Moore College of Art and Design is an independent arts school in Philadelphia. The college offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts program for women as well as post-graduate programs that are co-educational. Some of the art programs offered include graphic design, animation, interior design, and illustration. The school runs its own art space, called The Galleries at Moore.
Art Schools in Chicago
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) holds the distinction of being the largest accredited independent art school in the country. Found in the heart of the Loop in Chicago, the school benefits from its close relationship with the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago. Some of the programs offered at SAIC include fiber arts, printmaking, and sculpture.
Other Art Schools in the United States
Rhode Island School of Design
Providence, Rhode Island
The Rhode Island School of Design is a top art school on the east coast, offering programs ranging from apparel design and textiles to industrial design and printmaking—and all with relatively small, intimate class sizes. The school has a number of notable faculty, including painter Mark Milloff and writer Mairéad Byrne.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, ranks in the top five worldwide for both architecture programs and for art and design. One thing to note is that MIT is one of the hardest schools to get into in the United States, with an acceptance rate that hovers at around eight percent.
Best Art Schools in North America: Best Art Schools in Canada
Emily Carr University of Art and Design
Vancouver, British Columbia
Located in beautiful British Columbia, the Emily Carr University of Art and Design has been a Vancouver institution since its inception in 1925. The gorgeous campus is located within Granville Island, a downtown Vancouver gem. The school is renowned for their sustainable design program, their co-op programs, and their relatively small student body of around 2,000 students.
Formerly known as the Ontario College of Art and Design, OCAD became a university in 2010. Today, it offers Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Design degrees, as well as several master programs. The campus is home to the Sharp Centre for Design, a notable postmodern building that doubles as one of downtown Toronto’s most famous landmarks. Fittingly, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)—one of North America’s leading art museums—is right on OCAD’s doorstep, and OCAD students enjoy free AGO membership!
Concordia University is known for its fine arts programs. It offers degrees in a variety of disciplines, ranging from ceramics to fiber to studio art. As a larger school, Concordia is known for its multidisciplinary focus, so there is always the possibility of collaboration between student departments. Concordia students benefit from being centrally located in Montreal, which, thanks to the city’s affordable cost of living and emphasis on culture, makes it one of the cities most beloved among artists in Canada.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
The Nova Scotia Scotia for Art and Design is Canada’s leading arts school on the east coast. The small school dates back to 1887, which makes it the oldest arts school in Canada. Some of the disciplines offered include photography, film, and fashion. The school also has an extensive art and design library, the only one of its kind in Atlantic Canada.
Best Art Schools in Mexico
The Unidersidad Iberoamericana, or IBERO, is a prestigious university located in the heart of Mexico City. Some of the art programs offered at IBERO include graphic design, history of art, and fashion design. IBERO students also have access to the Biblioteca Francisco Xavier Clavigero, one of the largest libraries in Mexico.
National Autonomous University of Mexico
The National Autonomous University of Mexico (or UNAM, which stands for the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) was founded in 1551, making it the oldest higher education institution in North America. The school has played an instrumental role in the Mexican art world over the years and was even the birthplace of the country’s muralist movement in the 1920s. Today, the schools’ sprawling campus is a World Heritage Site and features work from famous artists, including Diego Rivera. Admission to UNAM is very competitive, with an acceptance rate of only around five to eight percent.
Best Art Schools in Europe
Design Academy, Eindhover
Established in 1955, the Design Academy, Eindhover, is known around the world for its art programs in design, fashion design, graphic design, art, and architecture. The Design Academy is a notable art school because it grants every student a Bachelor of Design degree, no matter which discipline they choose to pursue.
The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts
The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts has been a Copenhagen landmark since it first opened more than 250 years ago. The school is especially well-known for its architecture program; famous architects hailing from RDAFA include installation artist Jeppe Hein and filmmaker Jane Jin Kaisen.
The Polytechnic University of Milan is the largest university of its kind in Italy. The university also boasts a highly-esteemed fashion design program, which is fitting considering the school’s location in one of the big fashion capitals of the world.
Established in 2010, Aalto University is one of the newer schools on our list. The school prides itself on offering an interdisciplinary education. Aalto University is home to the Design Factory, a one-of-a-kind comprehensive environment located on the university’s campus where students, teachers and professionals are encouraged to meet and collaborate.
It doesn’t get much more famous than the Parisian École des Beaux-Arts. Throughout its 350-year history, the famed institution has taught Europe’s greatest artists, including Claude Monet and Pierre Bonnard. The students continue to produce great art in the current day, including in more modern media like hypermedia.
Founded in the 1980s, ENSCI-Les Ateliers is one of the more recent arts institutions to appear in France. Located in the densely-populated 11th arrondissement (near the famous Place de la République), the school focuses exclusively on advanced degrees, which it offers in industrial design, textile design, and new design.
Pantheon-Sorbonne University, also known by its name “Paris 1,” is very well-known for its courses in plastic arts, such as sculpting and ceramics. Students benefit from full-on immersion in la vie Parisienne, as well as small class sizes and an active student body.
University of Barcelona
The University of Barcelona is consistently ranked as one of top universities in Spain. Its Faculty of Fine Arts has been active since the 1970s, and promises students a balance between practical technique and critical analysis.
The Complutense University of Madrid has a major presence within the Spanish capital. With an enrollment of over 80,000, it is one of the largest universities in Europe. Several Nobel Prize winners—including writers Mario Vargas Llosa and Vicente Aleixandre —graduated from here. Its prestigious pedigree and unparalleled reputation in the fine arts makes the Complutense University of Madrid one of the best art schools in the world.
Royal College of Art
London’s Royal College of Art devotes itself entirely to postgraduate degrees in art and design. Its narrow focus works to the schools benefit, as its highly-rated programs in communications, architecture, art and humanities and more place the school among the world’s top art schools.
The University of the Arts London is composed of six art colleges, including the London College of Fashion and the London College of Communication. The school is consistently ranked among the world’s top ten arts schools and is known for its expertise in everything from drama to graphic design.
Located in the East Midlands region of England, Loughborough University is ranked highly for its programs in art and design by the Complete University Guide. The school also has a large research budget.
Best Art Schools in Asia
China’s Tsinghua University is ranked first in the country for all academics, including art and design. It is found in the country’s capital city of Beijing. Xinya College is the undergraduate liberal arts school within the university.
Tongji University in Shanghai is prestigious, and so are its 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, the program offers courses in design history, design theory, and architecture in an immersive environment.
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Hong Kong Polytechnic University was the only school in Asia to crack the list of the Top 25 Design Schools in the World, thanks to its design program. It is also consistently ranks among the world’s top new universities. The cosmopolitan city of Hong Kong provides the perfect background to an art school education.
National University of Singapore
The National University of Singapore is the oldest school of higher-education in the city-state of Singapore, as well as its most highly-ranked. Some of the arts offerings at the school include a Bachelor of Arts degree in industrial design, a Bachelor of Arts in theatre studies, and a Master of Arts in urban design.
The most prestigious of all schools 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. Admission is very competitive.
Best Art Schools in Australia
RMIT Australia, or the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, is known for hosting one of the best art programs, not only in Australia, but in the southern hemisphere. Arts and design programs are the school’s specialities. RMIT also has sister campuses in Asia and Europe, with locations in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Barcelona, respectively.
Swinburne University of Technology
Another Melbourne school, the Swinburne University of Technology also ranks among the world’s top art schools. Some of the specialized programs offered at Swinburne include a diploma in building design, a diploma of graphic design, and a diploma of interior design.
This art school consistently ranks as one of Australia’s top universities. The school’s Faculty of Art and Design offers programs like a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Design, and Bachelor of Art Theory.
Excited to get your art career started? Here’s some more resources for you:
Advice from Professors and Grads on Creating an Art Portfolio for School
The Art Books You Actually Need to Read
How To Write An Artist’s Statement