The 10 Best Schools to Study Design Around the World

Design affects everything we do and shapes how we experience the world as we know it, and design degrees cater to the diversity of this creative and wide ranging field. As part of your design degree, you will be encouraged to develop your own creative and unique design style, in whatever discipline that may be – ranging from web design and graphic design to product design and additive manufacturing.

Studying design at university will teach you things about yourself and the world that you never thought possible. Over the course of three to five years, you’ll slowly equip yourself with the practical knowledge, theoretical skills and industry know-how to enter the commercial sector of your choice.

But where should you study? According to the 2018 QS World University Rankings – which compared 950 universities worldwide – the Royal College of Art in London took the top prize for the most prestigious school to study design.  The rankings took factors such as academic reputation, employer reputation after students leave university, staff to student ratio and the amount of international staff and students into consideration. Impressively, six American institutions made it into the top 10.

Here’s the list:

1 Royal College of Art

Located in Kensington, London, the Royal College of Art is once again ranked as the number one institution to study art and design – a title it’s held since 2015. The university offers 29 postgraduate programs across many art and design disciplines. Tuition fees vary depending on the level of study and your country of origin. Domestic/EU students pay $13,900 per year, while non-EU students pay $45,500. RCA currently offers postgrad degrees to students from over 60 countries and, importantly, offers competitive pre-entry scholarships, awarded based on the strength of your application and portfolio, your financial situation, your perceived talent and your academic promise. You can apply online for 2019 entry at https://applications.rca.ac.uk/. There are open days on 19 January and 23 March 2019.

2 Parsons the New School for Design

Known for its distinguished alumni (e.g. Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford), Parsons the New School for Design sits comfortably in second place this year – up one place from its 2017 ranking. Located in the trendy Greenwich Village area of New York City, it’s clear to see why design students want to study here. Undergraduate degrees at Parsons cost $45,240-46,820 per year. Scholarships available include the John L. Tishman Scholarship, awarded to students who show an interest and commitment to sustainable development, design and construction, and the William Randolph Hearst Scholarship, awarded to students engaged in socially responsible art or design projects. Parsons currently enrolls nearly 5,500 undergraduate and graduate students and the average class size is a neat 15 pupils. To apply, visit www.newschool.edu/parsons/admission.

3 Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

The private Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), located in the state capital Providence, is up one place this year to rank third for art and design. Founded in 1877, RISD offers a wide range of programs in fields of study including architecture, ceramics, film/animation/video, graphic design, illustration, photography, painting, printmaking and more. There are currently around 2,480 students across 19 courses, so plenty from which to choose. RISD currently charges tuition fees of $48,210 per year for all courses, and offers its own scholarships, which are awarded based on a mixture of financial need and academic achievement, as well as special scholarships which are awarded to outstanding first-year students. For more information about visiting the school  or applying for 2019 go to www.risd.edu/about/visiting-risd.

4 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Coming in fourth place is Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT considers the arts a fundamental aspect of its core curriculum, with 50 percent of MIT undergraduates enrolling in arts programs each year. Tuition fees are $49,580 per year for all undergraduate and graduate programs, plus the mandatory student life fee of $312. Founded in 1861, the MIT community includes more than 11,000 employees, 11,000 students, and 1,000 faculty members The full list of courses and their application deadlines can be found at https://gradadmissions.mit.edu/programs.

5 Politecnico di Milano

Politecnico di Milano is the largest technical university in Italy with around 42,000 students studying there at any one time. Founded in 1863, it is the oldest university in Milan. It’s up two places this year to rank fifth in the world for art and design. Tuition fees for laurea magistrale programs (equivalent to Master of Science) range from $1,100-4,800 per year for EU students, with non-EU students paying $4,435 per year. Students who are lucky enough to gain a scholarship will have their fees disregarded and only need to pay an administrative fee of $250. For more information visit https://www.polimi.it/en.

6 University of the Arts London

The University of the Arts London is home to a diverse body of 18,000 students from 130 countries and famous alumni of the university’s six renowned colleges include painter and printmaker Howard Hodgkin, illustrator Quentin Blake, fashion designer Stella McCartney, and painter Lucian Freud. Fees sit at $11,865 per year for undergraduate home/EU students, while international non-EU students commencing their studies in autumn 2017 paid $24,900. Scholarships available at UAL include the Grand Prix LVMH Scholarship, for a student of any nationality who is enrolled in the final year of a BA in Fine Art degree, and MEAD Scholarships and Fellowships. Fun Fact: over half of the fashion designers that showed at London Fashion Week 2018 are UAL alumni. For more information on degrees, open days and to order a prospectus visit https://www.arts.ac.uk/.

7 Pratt Institute

Ranked in seventh place, the Pratt Institute is spread across historic campuses in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Utica. The schools of art and design are located in Brooklyn on the 25 acre main campus. Its art and design programs offer an integrated curriculum which combines studio thinking with learning theories and current research in the field. The tuition fee for undergraduate art students is currently $47,986 per year. If you’re studying a Master of Fine Arts (MFA), it’s $51,390. Undergraduate students can apply for merit or need-based scholarships. For more information visit https://www.pratt.edu/admissions/.

8 School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC)

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is one of the largest independent schools of art and design in the States, with around 3,650 students in attendance. Tuition fees are currently $46,560 per year, with the school estimating total expenses of $60,800. Thankfully, there are a variety of merit and need-based scholarships available, with more than $42 million in financial assistance awarded in the 2016-17 academic year. As their website explains: “Our students translate the most complex ideas into tangible forms—paintings, sculptures, films, performances, books, installations, inventions, buildings, community projects, and, more often than not, a combination of the above.” International students aren’t eligible for need-based financial aid from the government, but can apply for SAIC’s merit-based awards. Check out www.saic.edu for more information.

9 Aalto University

Finland’s Aalto University, located in capital city of Helsinki, was founded in 2010 and has six schools with around 12,000 students and 4,000 employees of which close to 400 are professors. While students from the EU/EEA study for free, if you’re not from the EU or EEA and want to study in English you’ll need to pay tuition fees of $14,800 per year for bachelor’s degrees and $18,500 per year for master’s programs. Merit-based scholarships are available for non-EU/EEA students, which cover a whopping 50 or even 100 percent of the cost of tuition. Visit www.aalto.fi to find out more.

10 Stanford University

Ranked 10th for art and design, Stanford University in the US has one of the highest scores for employer reputation among these top ranked art and design schools. All of its art programs cost a hefty $48,987 per year, and Stanford estimates that the average undergraduate student will need around $69,109 in total for their expenses, including tuition fees, accommodation fees, books and other expenses.  Their website states: “We build on methods from across the field of design to create learning experiences that help people unlock their creative potential and apply it to the world. Design can be applied to all kinds of problems. But, just like humans, problems are often messy and complex—and need to be tackled with some serious creative thinking. That’s where our approach comes in.” To apply visit www.stanford.edu/admission.

Final thoughts

Design is everywhere. Everything we use initially started as a design. From the way we connect to people to the way we listen to music; from the way our cities are designed and built to how a specific medical tool is designed to save lives; from the way we travel to the house we choose. Studying such an important, relevant and ever-changing subject that will take you far in the modern world is an exciting prospect. We hope you now have a better idea of where you can qualify in design if you want to be studying at the crème de la crème of international universities.