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Top Art and Design Universities in the UK

Top Art and Design Universities in the UK

23 January, 2021

Most people think that art is only painting and drawing while design is working on Photoshop. However, a degree in art or design may land you a job in various industries such as fashion, textiles, photography, TV production, multimedia, museums, jewellery, furniture, and much more. When creativity and passion are combined with education, artful masterpieces are created. So, if you have the passion and want to develop a career in the art or design field, going to one of the top art and design universities in the UK would be a huge advantage. However, choose the correct course before applying through UCAS as each school has different specialisations and modules. This blog will list some of the top art and design universities in the UK with their courses and modules. 

What is Art and Design?

  • Art covers a range of human creative activities such as painting, photography, literature, sculpture, jewellery, metalworks, curating, and much more. It is the expression of a creator's mind and imagination. Artworks are produced to be appraised for their beauty and emotional power. 
  • Design is drawing or planning the construction and function of a system, garment, building, or any object before it is made.

Why Study Art and Design?

Pursuing a degree in the area of art and design, will help develop your creative skills, showcase your creative artworks, and turn your passion into a lucrative career. Working as an employee or freelance, you will have lots of opportunities in the design industry to work as a fashion designer, a 3D designer, animator, textile designer, illustrator, ceramics designer, fine artist, and more.

Additionally, the UK is home to celebrated artists such as J.M.W. Turner and Damien Hirst with a long history in art and culture. Therefore, having a degree in art and design from one of the top art and design universities in the UK gives you the resources to excel and build your ideas creatively and independently. 

What Are the Best Universities in the UK to Study Art and Design?


1. Royal College of Art (RCA)

According to the QS World University Rankings for Art and Design, Royal College of Art was ranked number one internationally in 2020. It is an entirely postgraduate public research university in London offering postgraduate degrees in art and design. By enrolling in the Art and Design Graduate Diploma, you will prepare yourself for the Master's studies at the RCA. When enrolling, you can choose to specialise in fine art, fashion and textiles, humanities; and product, interiors, or spatial design. If you pass the programme with distinction, you will have the opportunity to enter an MA or MRes programme depending on the area of study you choose to specialise in during your graduate diploma. This diploma has two intakes per year; January and July. Applications are open now for July entry; so make sure to apply before May 12, 2021, if you want to study this diploma.

As the world's oldest and most influential postgraduate art and design institution, Royal College of Art has four schools:

1. The School of Arts and Humanities

The School of Arts and Humanities is where fine and applied arts are integrated with curating, writing, and design history. It has various programmes in the art field. 

i) If you are fascinated by jewellery and metalwork, then the jewellery and metal programme will be the right choice for you. You will become an expert in designing pieces of jewellery after fully exploring their materials.

ii) You may also take the ceramics and glass programme and explore different possibilities and perspectives using these materials.

iii) If you are into photography, you can join the photography programme. In this programme, you will develop your skills in researching, reading, and writing about art theories, still images, and the efficacy of visual forms.

iv) Print is another programme where you can develop your writing, discussion, exhibiting, and publishing skills. Lectures, workshops, seminars, presentations, and tutorials are a part of this programme's learning process. 

v) The painting programme helps you think critically and integrate history with creativity to produce unique masterpieces.

vi) Through individual and group tutorials, seminars, lectures, and participation in external projects, you can discuss more contemporary issues about making sculptures in the school's sculpture programme.

vii) If you consider yourself a budding wordsmith and want to develop your writing skills, join the writing programme. You will be introduced to a wide range of writing arts and develop your analytical and research skills. After graduation, you may work in critiquing, journalism, or creative non-fiction. 

viii) Another programme in this school is the V&A/RCA History of Design. It is a joint programme offered by the (RCA) and the Victoria and Albert Museum of Art and Design (V&A). With a 15 or 18-month period, this programme has three specialist pathways you can choose from, Design and Material Culture, Photography, and Performance. These pathways show you how people interact with critical histories. 

  • In the design and material culture pathway, you will specialise in fashion and textile history, craft-making, architecture, science and technology, the material culture of politics, practice-based history, etc. 
  • Majoring in photography, you will explore photographs as a social, artistic, scientific, and technological artefact and investigate historical and contemporary issues through photography. 
  • As for the performance pathway, you will explore the culture, economics, and politics of performance. 

ix) To work as a contemporary art curator, join the curating contemporary art programme. There will be talks by curators, academics, artists, critics, and gallerists to help you acquire the knowledge of curatorial positions, exhibition histories, and artist perspectives. Besides, you will visit studios, galleries, and museums to develop your understanding of grounded and spatial knowledge. 

2. The School of Design 

 School of Design is where you will plan the design of an object or a product before making it and explore the design interactions, policies, and systems. This school has many programmes in different fields, too. Here are some of them:

i) The two-year MRes Healthcare and Design clinical/design collaboration programme draws on the complementary knowledge of the RCA's School of Design and the Helen Hamlyn Design Centre, and the medical expertise of the Imperial College London's medical faculty and the Imperial Helix Centre based at St Mary's Hospital. During the first year of this programme, you will study the Health Research Toolkit, Helix Design Dash, Principles of Design and Innovation, and Design-Led Innovation in Healthcare. In Year 2, you will study four additional modules which are Innovation, Leadership, Designing for Behaviour Change, and the Health Business Toolkit. After graduation, you will be qualified to use a wide range of design and innovation tools to solve healthcare challenges.

ii) If you want to be a designer mastering engineering or technology, an MA in Innovation Design Engineering is the right choice for you. For over 39 years, it has been providing a two-year joint-degree with Imperial College London. In Year 1, you will study Innovation Design Engineering Methods, Physical Computing and Machine Learning, Science-Design Visioning; and Critical and Historical Studies. During the second year, you will work on two projects: one is a group project, and the other is an individual project.

iii) Into designing vehicles? Join the 15-month MA programme in intelligence mobility where you will lead the "third age of automotive and mobility design". To achieve this, the programme will equip you with the required technical skills and professional development. At the end of the second year, you will work on and submit your major project.

iv) If you would like to be a textiles specialist, the two-year textiles programme is the best fit for you. In this programme, you will explore the creative, technical, commercial, cultural, and sustainable contexts of textiles and improve your understanding of colours and materials. Offering five specialities: Printed, Knitted, Woven, Mixed Media Textiles, and Soft Systems, you will choose one to expand your knowledge and experience in. 

3. The School of Communication

The School of Communication is where you will investigate new and exciting communication challenges. It includes the following programmes:

i) Do you like animation and aim to be an animator? The School of Communication offers a two-year MA programme in animation where you will develop your artistic and innovative skills. With three pathways, you should choose one to specialise in:

  • Experimental animation is where you will be able to make animated movies.
  • Documentary animation is a non-fiction animation where you integrate animation with social, cultural, political, and global themes.
  • Narrative animation is where you can explore the narratology and storytelling in the moving image. It has academic connections with the experimental animation and documentary animation pathways.

ii) If you are fond of graphic designillustration, or experimental communication, the two-year visual communication programme is your next challenge. Choose your specialist pathway and develop your skills by studying the histories and theories of art and design, artists' and designers' writings, literature, philosophy, technology, and cultural, literary, and social theory. 

4. The School of Architecture 

The School of Architecture is where you may pursue an MPhil/PhD in architecture or a MA degree in interior designcity designarchitecture, or environmental architecture.

2. University of the Arts London (UAL)

Holding its position as the second-best art and design university in the world and tenth in the UK, the University of the Arts London was awarded a silver award by the TEF (Teaching Excellence Framework). Its nine art and design schools offer pre-degrees, undergraduate degrees, postgraduate degrees and short courses in 18 subjects. For an overview of the main topics you can study in UAL, read our blog " Explore The Main Topics You Can Study at UAL" Here are the nine art and design schools in one of the top art and design universities in the UK:

1. Chelsea College of Arts

The first college at the University of the Arts London is Chelsea College of Arts. It offers five BA courses, seven MA and graduate diplomas, research degrees, and over 300 short courses.

2. Central Saint Martins 

This college offers pre-degree courses, undergraduate courses, short courses, and research degrees. Some of the 19 undergraduate courses include BA in Ceramic Design and a BA in Jewellery Design.

3. Camberwell College of Arts 

Camberwell College of Arts is another college offering foundation diplomas, undergraduate courses, postgraduate courses, and research courses mainly in the design field. Courses include a BA in Graphic Design, a BA in Illustration, and BA in Spatial Design.

4.  Wimbledon College of Arts 

As one of the top art and design universities in the UK, Wimbledon College has multiple BAs and short courses, including a BA in Theatre Design and a BA in Production Arts for Screen. 

5.London College of Fashion 

This college alone has 31 bachelor degrees. The degrees you can study include BA in Psychology of Fashion, BA in Cosmetic Science and BA in Print. 

6. London College of Communication 

 It offers 25 undergraduate courses, including courses in animation, design for art direction, games design, etc. 

7. UAL Creative Computing Institute 

Similar to the London College of Communication, the Creative Computing Institute offers courses in games design, graphic design, animation, and even sound arts. 

8. UAL Social Design Institute

Another college is the UAL Social Design Institute. To change how designers and organisations design, you will develop your research insights and make a positive social and environmental difference. While studying there, you will collaborate with the Centre for Circular Design, Centre for Sustainable Fashion and Design Against Crime Research Centre.

9. UAL Decolonising Arts Institute

This college is designed to challenge colonial and imperial legacies by trying to provide a cultural and social change in listening, thinking, making, and seeing. It focuses on projects driven by research.

3. The University of Oxford - The Ruskin School of Art 

As one of the top art and design universities in the UK, the Ruskin School of Art holds its position as the first art and design college in the UK. With its excellent teaching standards, it prepares students to become artists by offering a three-year studio-based BFA course. 

Your first year is focused on your practical studio work, group discussions, and critiques. You will attend lectures, seminars, drawing classes, human anatomy classes, and tutorials in art history to develop your technical and artistic skills. At the end of the first year, it is required to submit three essays and one written paper in the history and theory of visual culture. In Year 2, you will study the history and theory of art and submit three essays, too. At the end of Year 3, you will submit an extended essay making a strong connection between your studio studies and the interests of this essay. You will also submit a written paper on the history and theory of visual culture. In addition, a final exhibition and a portfolio will be part of your assessment.

Upon the completion of this course, you will be able to hold one of the following positions: art writer, art teacher, practising artist, and curator in public and private galleries. You may also work in academia, the film industry, and architecture. If you want to continue your education after gaining your BFA in fine arts, the school offers a 9-month MFA in fine arts and a 3- or 4-year DPhil in fine arts to develop your research, theoretical, and practical skills.

There are other top arts and design universities in the UK such as University College London, the Glasgow School of ArtGoldsmiths, University of London, Newcastle University's Fine Art department, and more!

If you are creative, innovative, and have a passion for art and design, follow your heart and study something you love! Seize the day and apply through UCAS to one of the top art and design universities in the UK! Then, book your room with CasitaCasita helps you choose your perfect student accommodation in the UK near the university you are studying at and at an affordable price.





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