Top Art & Design Schools In 2021 | Top Universities

Top Art & Design Schools In 2021

By Julia G

Updated April 18, 2021 Updated April 18, 2021
  • 220 universities included in this year's art & design ranking
  • The UK's Royal College of Art tops the ranking in 2021, one of three British institutions in the top 10
  • Eight Asian universities featured in the top 50 art & design schools

The recently released QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021 features 220 of the top higher education institutions to study art and design.

QS Rankings by Subject are based on four indicators: academic reputation, employer reputation, research citations per paper and the H-index (a way of measuring the productivity and published work of a scientist or scholar). You can find more details about the methodology behind the subject rankings here. The weightings of certain indicators vary by subject, with art and design assessed based solely on academic reputation and employer reputation.

Read on to learn more about the best art and design schools in each region. Alternatively, if you would like to explore the top art and design schools further, click here to view the full table.

Top 10 Universities for Art & Design in the World

Based on the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021

Rank Name of Institution Location
1 Royal College of Art United Kingdom
2 University of the Arts London United Kingdom
3 Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) United States
4 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) United States
5 Politecnico di Milano Italy
6 Aalto University Finland
7 School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) United States
8= Glasgow School of Art (GSA) United Kingdom
8= Pratt Institute  United States
10 Art Center College of Design United States
See the full ranking for art & design 

Top universities for art and design in the US & Canada

An impressive 39 schools in the US feature in the art and design rankings, as well as seven schools in Canada. The top ten is comprised of five US Art & Design schools, three British ones, and Italy’s Politecnico di Milano and Finland’s Aalto University - the highest position achieved by any Finnish institution across the 48 subject tables.

Outside of the top 10, other highly ranked US schools include new entrant, New York’s New School University (14th place), California Institute of the Arts (17th)  Carnegie Mellon University (18th) and Stanford University (19th).

Heading north, Canada has one entrant in the top 50 this year, the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, who climb up the rankings from joint 40th to 30th in 2021. Other notable art and design schools in Canada include Concordia University and University of Toronto (both ranked 51-100).

Top universities for art and design in Europe

There are 91 leading European art schools featured in the ranking, including 18 in the global top 50. The United Kingdom is the most well-represented country in Europe, with 27 programs in the rankings. Outside of the top 10, notable institutions in the UK include Goldsmiths, University of London (joint 15th place), Loughborough University (31st), University of Oxford (36th) and University College London (UCL, joint 48th).

Outside of the UK, Italy is the most well-represented country in Europe, with nine schools in the rankings. Highest ranked of these is Politecnico di Milano, ranked fifth in the world, plus Italy has two new entrants this year: NABA - Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti (51-100) and Università degli Studi di Firenze (UNIFI, 201-220).

Whilst there are no French schools in the top 10, two make it into the top 50, with École Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle, ENSCI Les Ateliers taking 26th place and Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs (ENSAD) in joint 39th. Also, with two entrants in the top 50 is Sweden, with Umeå University in joint 33rd and Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design rising to 26th place this year. 

Other notable European institutions in the global top 50 for art and design include new entrant, the Netherlands’ Delft University of Technology (11thDesign Academy Eindhoven (12th place), The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts - The School of Design (22nd), Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK, 35th) and Universität der Knste Berlin (joint 41st).

Top universities for art and design in Australia & New Zealand

In total, 12 Australian art and design schools are featured in the rankings, plus four schools in New Zealand. New Zealand’s highest ranked program is at Massey University, which comes in at 51-100.

Australia has an impressive three schools in the global top 50, with RMIT University the highest ranked in joint 15th place. Also featured in the top 50 are the University of Technology Sydney (UTS, 25th place) and Queensland University of Technology (QUT, joint 48th place).

Top universities for art and design in Asia

Asian universities performed well in the art and design rankings – out of 47 ranked universities in the region, eight made it into the global top 50. Mainland China takes the crown for the highest ranked Asian institution, with Tongji University taking 13th place. Two other Chinese universities are in the top 50 - Tsinghua University (23rd) and China Central Academy of Fine Arts in 24th.

Elsewhere in the global top 50, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University came in 20th place globally, the only art school in Hong Kong to make it into the top 50. Singapore had three entrants into the rankings, and, impressively, two made it into the global top 50, with the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 28th place and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in 43rd.

After Mainland China, South Korea is the most well-represented Asian region in the art and design rankings, with nine schools in total. However, only one of these makes it into the global top 50 – Seoul National University (SNU) in joint 39th place.

Top universities for art and design in Latin America

Latin America performs well in this years’ art and design rankings, with 16 schools in the region ranked globally, including one in the global top 50. The highest ranked school in Latin America is Mexico’s Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in joint 48th.

A further five Latin American programs make it into the global top 100, including Universidad de Buenos Aires and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Mexico is the most well-represented country in Latin America with four schools, whilst Brazil, Chile and Colombia all have three schools each in the ranking.

Top art and design schools in the Middle East

This year, two universities in the Middle East are included in the art and design rankings – no schools from this region featured in last year’s ranking. These are the United Arab Emirates’ American University of Sharjah (151-200) and Lebanon’s American University of Beirut (AUB, 201-220). Both universities scored very highly in the employer reputation indicator.

This article was originally published in March 2021 . It was last updated in April 2021

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Written by
Julia is the Assistant Editor for TopUniversities, publishing articles for students and graduates across the world. A native Londoner, she holds an MSc in Marketing Strategy & Innovation from Cass Business School and a BA in Classical Studies & English from Newcastle University.

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