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5 Top Art & Design Schools in the UK and their famous alumni

Published: January 6, 2017

Top Art & Design Schools in the UK

Oscar Wilde once famously said: “Art is the only serious thing in the world. And the artist is the only person who is never serious.” Have you ever wondered which UK universities excel in teaching the ‘only serious’ subject and who are their ‘hardly serious’ renowned alumni? Top Art & Design Schools in the UK

Here is a list of the top 5 schools for art and design in the United Kingdom according to the QS World University Rankings.


  1. Royal College of Art


Established in 1837, Royal College of Art has a long teaching tradition. This entirely postgraduate university offers 26 MA, Phil and PhD programmes including architecture, interior design, vehicle design, painting, sculpture or curating.

Consistently ranked amongst the top ten institutions for art and design, RCA should be considered by every student wanting to pursue a first-rate postgraduate education. Notable alumni include well-known artist such as Tracy Emin, David Hockney, Bridget Riley or Ridley Scott.


  1. University of the Arts London


University of the Arts London is formed of six 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 – all of which have very good international reputation and produce successful graduates specializing in numerous fields in the creative industry.

The UAL alumni make over 50% of the Turner Prize winners and nominees are UAL alumni and more than half of the AW 2016 London Fashion Week fashion designers. And the list of art and design awards won by the graduates of this London university goes on – BAFTAs, Golden Globes, Oscars, British Designer of the Year. Who wouldn’t want to study in the lecture halls legends like Alan Rickman, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, Florence Welch or even Khaleesi (Emilia Clark) sat in?


  1. Goldsmiths


Goldsmiths opened in 1905 as part of the University of London but its buildings had already witnessed more than a century of teaching. The university sites had served as a private boarding school for boys, a Royal Naval School and as the Goldsmith’s Company’s Technical and Recreative Institute (hence the name).

This university provides both undergraduate and postgraduate courses in a range of subjects – art, design, music but also politics, psychology and sociology. Goldsmiths is another UK institute to produce a large number of awards-winning alumni. Apart from seven Turner Prize winners and 24 nominees, Goldsmiths is also the alma mater of the first black director to win the Best Picture Oscar – Steve McQueen.


  1. University of Oxford – The Ruskin School of Art


For some, the fact that an Oxbridge institution features on this list may come as a surprise. After all, art and design are not exactly subjects based on theory. Nevertheless, Fine Art department at the University of Oxford – also known as The Ruskin School of Art – has enjoyed decades of international recognition and produced a number of successful artists. For instance, Helen Marten who won the 2016 Turner Prize. The BFA programme here is a bit unusual.

Unlike at other art institutions in the UK, where students apply for courses with specific media specializations, students here are encouraged to experiment during their first year and they are only required to choose a specific art media to specialize in in their final two years at university. Alongside the architectural gems of the University of Oxford, this course presents an incredible opportunity for students wanting to get inspired and experiment!


  1. The Glasgow School of Art


Founded in 1845 to educate young students who would became designers for the manufacturing industry, The Glasgow School of Art has been at the centre of the world’s creative industries for some time now. We were surprised to see just how many different courses the GSA offers.

Undergraduate and postgraduate courses in subjects like architecture, painting & printmaking, silversmithing & jewellery, design innovation and citizenship, interior design, serious games & virtual reality, sound for the moving image and more! The list of famous Glasgow School of Art alumni include Muriel Gray, Robert Hardy from Franz Ferdinand and a Doctor Who – Peter Capaldi!


Article written by Tereza Gladisova, a contributing editor at StudyAdvantage covering stories in education, media and entertainment.


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