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Masterstrokes: A Guide to the 12 Best Art Universities in the UK

04 Dec, 2023
Masterstrokes: A Guide to the 12 Best Art Universities in the UK

Studying art and design at a UK university offers a fantastic opportunity for both British and international students to expand their creative abilities.

With a long-standing reputation for producing acclaimed artists and designers, UK universities provide a comprehensive education in a range of mediums, from traditional methods to cutting-edge technology.

The country's diverse and vibrant art scene also offers plenty of opportunities for students to immerse themselves in creative culture, network with industry professionals, and gain work experience through internships and exhibitions.

In this guide, we take a closer look at 12 of the best art schools in the UK, exploring why they are ideal for achieving success within this domain.

Table of Contents

1.Royal College of Art (RCA)

2. University of the Arts London (UAL)

3. Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh

4. Glasgow School of Art

5. Goldsmiths, University of London

6. Falmouth University

7. Arts University Bournemouth

8. Slade School of Fine Art, University College London

9. Loughborough University

10. University of Oxford

11. Lancaster University

12. Newcastle University

1.Royal College of Art (RCA)

For more than two hundred years, Royal College of Art in London (RCA) has been recognised as one of the most prestigious and influential art schools not only in Europe, but globally. It has been ranked number 1 in the world for Art & Design nine years running by QS World University rankings.

Screengrab of the RCA website homepage

Image source: Royal College of Art

It is the only entirely postgraduate art and design university in the United Kingdom and consists of four schools; the School of Architecture, School of Arts and Humanities, School of Communication and School of Design.

Its graduates are leaders whose work defines creative trends across diverse artistic disciplines ranging from fine art, photography, and design to library science and curating.

Royal College of Art main building

Image source: Shutterstock

Location

London; a creative melting pot, and the best city in the world for students (QS Best Student Cities ranking 2024). The RCA is based across three locations in the city; Battersea, Kensington (next to Hyde Park, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Albert Hall), and White City (located in the BBC Media Village).

Tuition and fees

Varies by course, but tuition and fees for 2024 for the MFA in Arts and Humanities are:

  • UK: £16,550
  • International: £38,600

Best features

  • Esteemed alumni: many prominent British artists have attended RCA, including Antony Gormley, Tracey Emin, David Hockney and Peter Blake.
  • Excellent facilities, in particular at its new campus in Battersea: the most significant campus development in the College’s history, it houses art and design programmes as well as Research Centres in Intelligent Mobility, Robotics and Material Futures, the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design and InnovationRCA.This new flagship building marks the College's transformation into a dynamic STEAM-focused postgraduate university (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics).

2. University of the Arts London (UAL)

With a rich history dating back to the 19th and early 20th centuries, UAL is an esteemed institution that reigns supreme in the field of art and design. It was ranked top 2 in the world for Art and Design (QS World University Rankings 2023).

Screenshot of the UAL website homepage

Image source: UAL

Boasting a collection of six renowned arts, design, fashion, and media 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) UAL is at the forefront of innovation and creativity. And now, breaking new ground, UAL has introduced the UAL Creative Computing Institute, a cutting-edge addition to its already impressive lineup.

Image source: Shutterstock (Central Saint Martins campus)

Location

London, the UK's arts and culture capital and the ultimate destination for aspiring artists and designers ready to embark on a transformative educational journey.

Tuition and fees

Annual tuition and fees for UAL for 2023-24 are:

  • UK: £9,250
  • International: £28,570

Best features

  • A wide range of subject areas: UAL gives students unique opportunities to learn, create, research and innovate across a whole range of disciplines and at all levels – covering everything from the performing arts, graphic and interior design to fashion and fine art.
  • A varied and renowned body of staff: its teaching staff consists of professional artists, practitioners, designers, critics and theorists, all of which are expert in their field.
  • Excellent graduate prospects: UAL graduates go on to work in and shape creative industries worldwide, and the university has launched the careers of many creative and cultural leaders, including over half of all Turner Prize nominees.

Progression to UAL through Kings

At Kings, our newest Art and Design programmes, the UAL Level 3 and 4 Diplomas in Art and Design (offered in Oxford, London and Brighton), prepare students for progression this outstanding university and are recognised by the leading art schools in London and throughout the UK too. Find out more.

3. Edinburgh College of Art (University of Edinburgh)

The Edinburgh College of Art at the University of Edinburgh is an ideal destination for those looking to study Art and Design. Not only does the institution boast rich historical ties, but it also has a reputation for producing some of the most accomplished artists and designers.

Studying in this environment exposes students to one of the world’s great cultural cities, a place that is known globally for its annual arts festivals, including the renowned Edinburgh Fringe.

Screenshot of Edinburgh College of Art website homepage

Image source: Edinburgh College of Art

The College comprises five Schools: School of Art; School of Design; ESALA (Architecture and Landscape Architecture); History of Art; and the Reid School of Music. Through them, students can access a range of degree programs, covering everything from drawing and painting to fashion design and architecture.

Edinburgh College of Art

Image source: Shutterstock

Location

Edinburgh, Scotland. The College enjoys a central location within the city, close to a range of galleries and other arts spaces and venues, and surrounded by the astounding architecture of the Old and New Towns (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

Tuition and fees

Annual tuition and fees for University of Edinburgh for 2024-25 are:

  • Scotland: £1,820
  • Rest of UK: £9,250
  • International: £34,800

Best features

  • Excellent facilities: the college has fantastic facilities, including animation studios and workspaces, a digital film editing suite, fashion workshops, a foundry and casting room, jewellery and silversmithing workshops, painting studios, a printmaking suite, performance costume workshops and sculpture court.
  • Renowned faculty: staff at the college are practising artists, designers, architects, curators and writers.
  • A Russell Group degree: degrees at the college are awarded by the University of Edinburgh, a member of the prestigious Russell Group and internationally recognised as one of the world’s leading academic institutions (currently ranked 22 - QS World Rankings 2024)

4. Glasgow School of Art

The Glasgow School of Art is one of Europe's leading higher education institutions for the education and research in the visual creative disciplines. It is currently ranked 12th in QS World University rankings for Art and Design 2023 and 2nd in the UK for Art and Design by the 2024 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide.

All GSA degree programmes are validated by the University of Glasgow, a member of the prestigious Russell Group and the Times & Sunday Times Good University Guide's current Scottish University of the Year (2024).

Screenshot of Glasgow School of Art website homepage

Image source: Glasgow School of Art

With a long history of artistic innovation and a focus on practical skills, the school instills in its students a deep appreciation for both the creative process and the technical mastery necessary to bring their visions to life.

Whether students there aspire to be painters, photographers, or graphic designers, studying Art and Design at Glasgow School of Art will provide them with the tools, resources, and support needed.

Image source: Shutterstock

Location

GSA is located in the heart of Scotland's largest city, Glasgow. It’s a city that is rich in Victorian architecture and known as an important creative and artistic hub. It has endless galleries and museums, and numerous cultural venues, including the Glasgow Film Theatre, the Centre for Contemporary Arts, and The Lighthouse Centre for Architecture. Glasgow's Digital Media Quarter at Pacific Quay is the hub for Scotland's digital media industry.

Tuition and fees

Annual tuition and fees for The Glasgow School of Art for 2023-24 are:

  • Scotland: £1,820
  • Rest of UK: £9,250
  • International: £21,360

Best features

  • An inspiring and affordable location: GSA is situated right in the heart of one of Britain’s coolest cultural hubs, but more affordable than counterparts such as London and Edinburgh.
  • Academic prestige: it holds high academic reputation as the largest art and design research community in Scotland.
  • A wide range of study abroad options: students can benefit from study abroad opportunities at its Singapore campus as well as thorough other academic partners. GSA currently has academic partnerships with more than 75 leading arts schools in the world, who often facilitate staff and student exchanges.
  • A reputation for producing Scotland’s leading contemporary artists: these include Turner Prize winners like Richard Wright, Martin Boyce, Simon Starling and Charlotte Prodger.

5. Goldsmiths, University of London

Founded in 1891, and part of the University of London since 1904, Goldsmiths offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate study options in the arts, humanities, social sciences, cultural studies, computing, and entrepreneurial business and management.

Goldsmiths is ranked 9th in the UK for Art and Design by the 2024 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide.


Screenshot of Goldsmiths website homepage

Image source: Goldsmiths, University of London

With a faculty composed of celebrated artists and designers, including Antony Gormley, Damien Hirst, Mary Quant and Steve McQueen, students receive unparalleled guidance and mentorship in a wide range of mediums and styles, from traditional painting to cutting-edge digital techniques.

The College is friendly and vibrant, and proud of the diverse student population which adds to this welcoming atmosphere - nearly 20% of students come from countries outside the UK.

Goldsmiths University London building

Image source: Shutterstock

Location

Goldsmiths is a close-knit community based on a single-site campus within the vibrant New Cross area of south east London.

The area has a thriving music and arts scene, and a genuinely diverse population. Plus, it’s just a short journey away from the centre of London, and all the arts venues and spaces that are there to be explored.

Tuition and fees

Annual tuition and fees for Goldsmiths for 2023-24 were:

  • UK: £9,250
  • International: varied by degree programme, maximum £25,820

Best features

  • Industry-standard spaces and facilities: students have access to studio space and industry-standard workshops, with the latest in laser cutting and 3D modelling technology.
  • The opportunity to work on live briefs set by real life companies: these projects allow them to develop their ideas and present to design professionals, gaining valuable experience and insight.
  • Excellent graduate prospects: Goldsmiths graduates have gone on to work for top London design consultancies and major international brands including Dyson, LEGO, Google and Burberry.

6. Falmouth University

Falmouth University has been a hub of creative thinking and design innovation for more than 100 years, in a famously inspiring creative region. Today, its portfolio of undergraduate and postgraduate courses represents the breadth of the creative industries and career opportunities spanning art, design and fashion, to gaming, music and film.

Degree courses include a BA(Hons) in Fine Art, BA(Hons) in Graphic Design, BA(Hons) in Drawing, BA(Hons) in Illustration and BA(Hons) in Interior Design.

screenshot of Falmouth University website homepage

Image source: Falmouth University

Location

Falmouth, Cornwall, South West England. Cornwall and its varied, beautiful vistas and special light have long attracted and inspired artists. Today, the Falmouth area in particular has one of the most energetic and creative art scenes in the county, which students at the university can actively become involved in.

Tuition and fees

Annual tuition and fees for Falmouth University for 2024-25 are:

  • UK: £9,250
  • International: £17,950

Best features

  • Outstanding facilities: spread across two campuses, facilities and spaces are carefully designed and developed with professional consultation and ongoing investment to ensure that graduates are well equipped to succeed.
  • An inspiring environment: arts programmes are primarily located at the Falmouth Campus, in a subtropical garden. Studios and workshop facilities provide an exceptional environment for thinking and making: fostering experimentation, innovation, and critical dialogue.
  • Excellent industry connections: students have exciting opportunities through industry connections and dedication to mirroring professional practice. They can connect with industry by tackling live briefs from real clients, working for in-house agencies and hearing from sector leaders through guest lectures.

7. Arts University Bournemouth

Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) stands apart as one of the UK's few higher education institutions exclusively dedicated to arts-based courses. Although a standalone university, it has ties with Bournemouth University, with which it shares some facilities and resources.

Courses at AUB seamlessly integrate practical and theoretical aspects, individually tailored to each subject. This ensures students at AUB gain the confidence they need to pursue successful careers in their chosen fields of study.

Screenshot of the AUB website homepage

Image source: Arts University Bournemouth

Location

Bournemouth, south coast of England.

Tuition and fees

Tuition and fees for Arts University Bournemouth for 2024-25 are:

  • UK: £9,250
  • International: £18,950 (£19,950 for Animation, Costume, Film, Modelmaking, Performance Design and Film Costume)

Best features

  • Excellent local opportunity in the arts field: Bournemouth is home to one of the fastest growing creative and digital hubs in Europe, with its digital sector supporting more than 7,500 digital jobs and contributing over £340million to the UK economy.An award-winning campus.
  • Excellent industry-standard facilities: AUB has a range of industry-standard facilities to help aid students’ creativity, including a drawing studio, dance studios, a printmaking room, workshops and its Innovation Studio. For inspiration, an onsite gallery showcases the work of artists and designers from around the world.

8. Slade School of Fine Art, University College London

One of the most renowned art schools in the world, the Slade School of Fine Art at University College London (UCL) offers an exceptional opportunity for students to study art and design at an advanced level. The school's reputation is built on a long-standing tradition of innovation and experimentation, which has attracted some of the most talented students and professors from across the globe.

UCL is ranked 6th in the UK for Art and Design by the 2024 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide.

UCL Slade website homepage

Image source: UCL

Location

London.

Tuition and fees

Tuition and fees for Slade School of Art for 2023-24 are:

  • UK: £9,250
  • International: varies by course, as an example Fine Art, BA is £35,000

Best features

  • Expertise in fine art: the Slade School of Art focuses primarily on Fine Art, offering two undergraduate degree programmes - the BFA three-year course and the four-year BA programme.
  • Innovation: the curriculum at UCL consistently evolves to meet the demands of the contemporary art world and is designed to develop the critical and conceptual skills necessary to succeed in this field.
  • Location: the school's prime location in central London provides access to world-class art galleries and museums, offering students numerous opportunities to engage with contemporary art first-hand.

9. Loughborough University

Loughborough's School of the Arts, English and Drama is highly regarded as one of the leading degree-awarding institutions for art and design majors in the UK..

It is ranked 1st for Fashion and Textiles, and 2nd for Graphic Design by the Guardian Good University Guide 2024, and 3rd in the UK for Art and Design by both the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, and the Complete University Guide in 2024. Its current global ranking for Art and Design according to QS World University Rankings is 32.

Screenshot of Loughborough University Creative Arts department website homepage

Image source: Loughborough University

Undergraduate degree courses offered at the university currently include BA (Hons) Fine Art, BA (Hons) Graphic Design, BA (Hons) Design, BA (Hons) Fashion Design and Technology, BA (Hons) Textile Design, BA (Hons) Industrial Design and BSc (Hons) Product Design and Technology.

Loughborough University campus

Image source: Shutterstock

Location

Loughborough, East Midlands of England. Its central location makes all major hubs for art and design (London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow, for example) accessible to students.

Tuition and fees

Tuition and fees for Loughborough University for 2024 are:

  • UK: £9,250
  • International: £23,000

Best features

  • An integrated work placement for all: all Creative Arts undergraduate degrees offer the opportunity to integrate a work placement or study abroad year. This is an invaluable opportunity for students to explore future career paths, network with employers and broaden their cultural horizons. Recent placement destinations of Creative Arts students include Mondelez, The Walt Disney Company, H&M, Suzie Turner, Dr. Martens, The MTC, Nacho Carbonell, Debenhams and more.
  • Access to a range of world-class facilities: state-of-the-art Creative Hubs provide industry-standard production possibilities and facilitate a high level of professional training. These are: Creative Digital Technologies and Photography; Print, Dye, Weave, Stitch and Digital Embroidery; Wood, Metal, Plastics, Laser, and 3D Printing; Painting and Printmaking; and Ceramics and Mouldmaking.
  • A focus on inter-departmental collaboration: Loughborough's focus on interdisciplinary learning means that students are encouraged to collaborate across departments and explore a range of approaches to their art and design work.

10. University of Oxford

The Ruskin School of Art is the Fine Art Department of the University of Oxford and is one of the UK’s leading art schools. It is currently ranked 1st for Fine Art in the Guardian Good University Guide 2024, and 1st in the UK for Art and Design by the 2024 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide.

University of Oxford Ruskin School of Art website homepage

Image source: University of Oxford

Ruskin offers a three-year studio-based BFA course in which students work alongside each other in collaboratively-organised studios. Whereas many fine art courses run in an environment devoted exclusively to art and design, Ruskin students, as members of a collegiate university, have the advantage of contact with their contemporaries on all of Oxford’s other courses.

Location

The school’s main premises are in the very centre of Oxford, surrounded by many of the university's most prestigious colleges, however in October 2015, the Ruskin opened a second Fine Art building in East Oxford's Bullingdon Road. Sitting on the site of a former warehouse and studio annex, the building houses purpose-built, state-of-the-art facilities and studios, and won an RIBA South Award in 2016.

Tuition and fees

Annual tuition fees at the Ruskin School of Art are:

  • UK: £9,250
  • International: £38,550

Best features

  • A degree from one of the world's top universities: the University of Oxford is known as being one of the world's best, and a degree in any discipline from such a renowned institute will make many avenues and opportunities accessible post graduation.
  • A small but focused environment: with only around 130 students, those who complete their degree at the Ruskin have the best of both worlds; a focused, intimate environment, but the advantages that accompany being part of a wider research-intensive and world-renowned university.
  • Excellent links to other departments: the Ruskin enjoys vibrant relationships with Oxford’s Department of the History of Art, the School of Anatomy, the Department of Engineering Science, the Institute of Archaeology, the Ashmolean Museum, Pitt Rivers Museum, and many other parts of the University. In addition, connection with Modern Art Oxford has enabled Ruskin students to stage exhibitions, performances and screenings in their galleries.

11. Lancaster University

Lancaster University is ranked 4th in the UK for Art and Design by the 2024 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide. The same guide also ranks it 6th for Art and Design Graduate Prospects.

Lancaster University is consistently recognised as one of the top universities in the UK and globally. It ranks among the top 15 universities in the three major UK league tables: The Complete University Guide, The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, and The Guardian University Guide.


Sceenshot of Lancaster University website homepage
Image source: Lancaster University

Undergraduate art and design courses currently include BA (Hons) Design, BA (Hons), Fine Art and Design, BSc (Hons) Marketing and Design, BA (Hons) Fine Art, BA (Hons) Fine Art and Design, BA (Hons) Fine Art and Film, BA (Hons) Fine Art and Theatre.

Location

Lancaster, North East England. Lancaster itself is an attractive city with historical significance, yet it has good transport links to both Manchester and Glasgow, which are known internationally for their vibrant contemporary arts scenes.

Tuition and fees

Undergraduate tuition fees for 2024-25 at Lancaster University are:

  • UK: £9,250
  • International: £23,750

Best features

  • A Fine Art specialism: Lancaster specialises in the field of fine art and studying the subject at this university gives students the opportunity to integrate Fine Art Practice with Art History/Theory at a high level.
  • Innovative ways to apply design: Lancaster’s approach to design reflects a department that is actively seeking new and innovative ways to apply design. The degree is taught by leading design researchers, and it moves beyond the scope of traditional disciplines such as graphic or product design.
  • Access to interdisciplinary modules: The Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts also has a range of interdisciplinary modules available to give students the opportunity to develop knowledge, skills and understanding that is relevant across both art and design.

12. Newcastle University

One of the prestigious Russell Group universities, Newcastle’s reputation is built on inspirational teaching, alongside excellent facilities and world-leading research and art practice. The Bachelor’s (BA) Fine Art degree at Newcastle University is ranked 2nd in the UK in the Guardian University Guide 2024.


Screengrab of Newcastle University Fine Art department website homepage

Image source: Newcastle University

Students studying Fine Art in the art school at Newcastle are taught by a group of distinguished artists and art historians who are all active practitioners, researchers and specialists in their fields.

Location

Newcastle, North East England. Newcastle is one of the best and most vibrant cities in the UK in which to study and make contemporary visual art. It has a thriving art scene with numerous studios and galleries.

Tuition and fees

Undergraduate tuition fees for 2024-25 at Newcastle University are:

  • UK: £9,250
  • International: £24,700

Best features

  • Excellent facilities and input: based at the very heart of Newcastle University's city-centre campus, the art school provides students, from undergraduate to postgraduate, with excellent workshops and studio spaces, support by excellent technicians, and a superb Visiting Artists Programme.
  • Interdisciplinary opportunities: Fine Art at Newcastle is also home to the Hatton Gallery, and is also art of the University's Institute for Creative Arts Practice, which supports Creative Practice and interdisciplinary working across the university.

Need Help With Choosing the Right Art Uni?

At Kings, we offer a host of qualifications and programmes to prepare students for progression to study an Art and Design course at university.

From traditional Art & Design A-levels to the Art & Design Foundation, UAL Foundation Diploma in Art & Design and Fast-track Art and Design pathway we can cater for all needs and requirements. Irrespective of the course followed, all students at Kings benefit from:

  • Expert teaching from subject specialists
  • Specialist facilities and excellent resources
  • Personalised support to establish the best university fit and give you the best chance of winning a place there

Progression to top art schools - find out which universities have welcomed our art and design alumni

Next steps

We hope that this article has helped you understand more about the best universities for Art-related subjects in the UK.

If you would like receive more detailed information about the Kings and our programmes, please get in touch with us at enquiries@kingseducation.com.