Top UK Art Schools for International Students
Written and edited by Nadya Soetomo.
“Because the world needs creativity.” – University of the Arts London
If you want to specialize in art, design, or both, then going to an art school is definitely the right match for you! Just by hearing the name ‘art school’ itself, you can infer that the programs and talent (i.e., lecturers and colleagues) in art schools are explicitly surrounded by the arts. This is unlike the general, broader education scope provided in traditional universities (i.e., biochemistry, business management, etc.) which you don't frequently find in art schools.
As one of the most popular university destinations for international students, UK art schools offer majors in fine arts (drawing, sculpting, and performing arts) as well as design (fashion, communication, and industrial design). A defining feature of UK art school programs is that they tend to be more concentrated compared to their international counterparts.
Are you beginning your search into finding the perfect UK art school for you? Get started here with the top four art schools in the UK!
#1 Royal College of Art (RCA)
Founded in 1837, RCA has campuses in South Kensington, Battersea, and White City, all situated in the lively city of London. Its Arts & Design department ranks first worldwide (QS World University Ranking). It's worth noting that the RCA is a postgraduate school; to apply, you must have a bachelor’s degree, although it doesn’t necessarily have to be in fine arts. In 2019, only 38% of all applicants from around the world (including the UK) were accepted into RCA, making it a highly competitive institution.
With approximately 2,300 students, RCA emphasizes human values, the global environment, and technological innovation through its diverse arts programs and the new InnovationRCA center.
"RCA’s Arts and Design department has placed first worldwide since 2015!"
Did you know…
- RCA is the only entirely postgraduate art and design university in the UK?
- It has two double MA/MSc programs (Global Innovation Design and Innovation Design Engineering) with Imperial College London?
- Its Art and Design department has internationally ranked first for six years in a row since 2015 (QS World University Rankings)?
#2 University of the Arts London (UAL)
UAL, established in 1986, ranks second worldwide (QS World University Ranking 2021). Of its diverse body of 18,000 students, approximately 35–40% are international students.
UAL operates under a collegiate system with six art colleges: Camberwell College of Arts, Central Saint Martins, Chelsea College of Arts, London College of Communication, London College of Fashion, and Wimbledon College of Arts. These colleges offer a variety of courses catering to your specialization (e.g., fashion, visual media, theatre, etc.) at various levels, from pre-degrees to PhDs.
Additionally, the university provides opportunities for students to hold solo exhibitions and curations in collaboration with notable external arts organizations, allowing you to expand your experience and receive professional feedback!
Did you know…
- According to the Business of Fashion in 2017, UAL dominates fashion education by having two of the world’s top four undergraduate fashion courses taught at its colleges?
- Chelsea College of Arts and London College of Fashion share the Creative Learning in Practice Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT)
- Alexander McQueen, the British fashion designer, received his master’s degree from Central Saint Martins?
#3 Glasgow School of Art (GSA)
Ranked third in the UK and eighth worldwide (QS World University Ranking 2021), GSA is known for its triple-threat programs in architecture (Mackintosh School of Architecture), fine arts (School of Fine Art), and design (School of Design). Located in Scotland’s largest city, GSA was founded in 1845 with the mission to illustrate the nature and history of art education without overlooking its innovative purposes. The school continues to launch new developments and programs, such as the School of Visualization and Simulation, Centre for Advanced Textiles, and many more.
The academic home to international students from over 79 countries, GSA hosts more than 80,000 students and annually welcomes over 90 students from its Exchange and Study Abroad partners, contributing to the international dimension of its learning experience.
Did you know…
- Almost all buildings in GSA were designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a key figure in the Arts and Crafts movement?
- GSA has a long-established portfolio of non-degree art and design classes for children and adults delivered through GSA Open Studio? You could register for a session before you consider applying there to experience what it’s like to learn in GSA!
- Glasgow is the UK’s best student city and is home to diverse and unique networks? Many (international) GSA students choose to reside and start their careers in Glasgow!
#4 Goldsmiths, University of London
Founded in 1891, Goldsmiths is a constituent college of the University of London. It ranks fourth in the UK and 15th worldwide (QS World University Ranking 2021). Not only is the school prominent for its arts and design departments, but it also offers a range of study disciplines, from humanities and entrepreneurial business management to psychology. International students make up a fifth of its entire student population, with approximately 20% of undergraduate and postgraduate international students in every intake.
Goldsmiths consolidates its teaching, learning, and resources all in one place. The school’s central location in South East London fosters a friendly and intimate community that enhances the learning experience and promotes networking with peers.
"Goldsmiths provides its teaching, learning, and resources all in one place!"
Did you know…
- Goldsmiths was initially an independent institution? It was acquired by the University of London in 1904.
- The school’s staff would regularly travel and visit prospective students to talk about life as an international student in Goldsmiths for recruitment purposes
- The campus’ main building is a former Royal Naval School building?
Are you considering applying to a British art school? To know more about getting into a UK art school, sign up for Millie’s webinar featuring Zena Khan, an RCA graduate who is currently a collection curator in The AFK Collection!