Leading arts schools for Asian students
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Leading arts schools for Asian students

ONE important question lingers on the minds of many aspiring artists: what does it take to succeed in this competitive field?

While talent is essential, a relevant and rigorous academic training program at a tertiary level is as imperative as inherent ability.

Success in the field of art is more than choosing an institution that allows artists to develop their talent to the fullest potential; success also entails value, innovation, inspiration and recognition.

Many successful art creations in our society today are not high-brow works that require esoteric knowledge to understand, nor do they require an exquisite taste to appreciate. They are innovations that inspire; creations that are recognized and given merit, in both tangible and intangible forms.

This particular brand of success has gained resonance in esteemed arts institutions across the world. Programs that these institutions offer do not merely focus on developing specialized skills or talents that artists possess. Instead, they work hard at establishing a quality support system, connecting students with potential employers, and hiring teachers with first-hand experience working in their respective fields.


Pic: The Art Institutes

Schools with advisory programs ensure that the skills that art students graduate with are in demand. These schools find out what employers are looking for when they desire to hire and promote employees. Such schools also impart pertinent communication skills to art students as they are nurtured to be effective artists and communicators who have the ability to market themselves successfully.

Perhaps more so for Asian students, a global and international network in an arts institution is something they should value highly. This network helps students to stay connected to the art scene back home and in other parts of the world. Moreover, students are not only connected to employers in their host countries, but are also linked to potential employers back home, benefiting from the global exposure (a quality that employers look out for) that these international platforms offer.

An institution’s reputation and ranking, as well as the composition of its alumni, are important indicators when choosing an arts school. A school with notable alumni has a proven track record in providing an education that equips students with the skills necessary for success. A good reputation implies a good quality education.

Although skills that promote employability and success are featured strongly when it comes to choosing an arts school, students should also look for schools that promote innovation and creativity. An institution should have diverse programs that offer students the opportunity to collaborate with other artists or designers, opening up unlimited avenues for innovation.

The following is a list of 25 of the leading arts schools for Asian students:


The Art Institute of California – San Diego is part of a network of over 40 not-for-profit institutions for higher education that has been recognised for its high standards of teaching and training in North America. This design, media and culinary academy is geared to prepare the sharpest minds to succeed in an industry where skills are considered foremost. The institute has a network of industry contacts and professionals that form a strong backbone to the unique education dispensed here. The university is well-known for the nurturing environment it provides its students in order to extract their full potential. The Institute has a tradition of producing excellence in advertising, culinary arts, game art & design, visual & game programming, graphic design, fashion design, fashion marketing & management, interior design, media arts & animation, audio production, and web & interactive media. Read the full profile…


City University London is a world-renowned educational institution that offers courses in a variety of areas. Its School of Arts is one of the top 25 in the world and focuses on the fields of arts, media and cultural enterprise. Because of its reputation, the university boasts extensive links throughout the global arts community and has a vast number of visiting professors and guest speakers who frequent the school on a regular basis. City University London also has an outstanding track record when it comes to graduate opportunities. It was ranked in the top 10 in the UK in the Times University Guide 2011 for graduate employment and in the top 10 in the Sunday Times University Guide 2011 for graduate starting salaries. Through a combination of skilled teachers, a solid reputation and a balanced curriculum, City University London provides students with the right foundations. Read the full profile…


Pic: City University London


Located in the heart of Kowloon, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has been continuing a tradition of excellence in learning since 1937. The university, formerly known as Hong Kong Polytechnic, received full university status in 1994 and today proudly boasts a student population of more than 28,000. A university that has long been recognised for its contribution to the knowledge and expertise of Hong Kong in the form of its graduates and the research that it conducts, PolyU offers an exciting selection of programmes for its students. The university is well known for art and design programmes that train its students in creativity, diversity and innovation. Full-time undergraduate programmes are tailored towards a BA (Hons) in Design, Digital Media, Fashion and Textiles, among others. Read the full profile…


New York University’s first branch to open abroad, Tisch School of the Arts in Singapore, is home to some of the most innovative, talented and aspiring minds in the field of fine arts. The school offers three Master of Fine Arts degrees in association with the Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television; these are Animation and Digital Arts; Dramatic Writing, Film; or International Media Producing. Drawing from its tradition of storytelling that made Tisch in NYU so renowned, Tisch Asia offers the same high standards of quality to its students. The faculty at the school comprise the very best, having been selected meticulously; the School is careful to recruit those who have strong ties to the industry along with a passion for education and teaching. Students from across the world, representing 21 countries including Australia, Brazil, China, France, South Africa and the US, come together at Tisch Asia to make learning a truly international experience.


As part of the Art Institutes, a network of over 45 schools based around North America, the Art Institute of Vancouver has been around since 2004 and boasts an impressive array of applied arts degrees, diplomas and certificates in numerous fields, including animation, game art and design, interior design, and VFX for film and television. With state-of-the-art facilities and a convenient location, students will find the perfect environment in which to grow and develop within their desired fields. The Art Institute of Vancouver features five individual schools, which offer undergraduate courses, diplomas and continuing education programs in Culinary Arts, Design, Event Management, Fashion, and Media Arts. Read the full profile…


SCAD is a private, not-for-profit university in the US, with four campuses in Savannah and Atlanta in Georgia, Hong Kong and Lacoste in France. The university boasts of a plethora of specialisations and degrees – more than any other art and design university – and is reputed for the intensive professional training that its students receive. The university offers eight schools, including the School of Building Arts, the School of Communication Arts and the School of Fashion. SCAD also offers advanced e-learning programmes which allow students to achieve undergraduate and graduate degrees from any part of the world. Individual attention is an integral part of learning at SCAD and is one of its many strengths in maintaining an alumnus of successful professionals in the industry.


Pic: The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.


One of the UK’s leading universities, the University of Arts London is comprised of six Colleges – Camberwell College of Arts, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, Chelsea College of Art and Design, London College of Communication, London College of Fashion and the Wimbledon College of Art. The colleges draw from their communities offering their students a real experience in contributing to and drawing from local culture. Some 20,000 enroll in a variety of degrees and programmes, while more than 1000 faculty are professionals in the industry as practitioners, designers, critics and theorists. Student at one of the six Colleges at the University of the Arts London is vibrant, with strong student groups and endless activities.


École nationale supérieure des arts Décoratifs (ENSAD) is one of the most respected among the French grandes écoles. Located in Paris, the school was founded in 1766 as a public institute under the Ministry for Culture and Communication. ENSAD aspires to provide artistic, scientific and technical training of unrivalled quality to its students in the field of decorative arts. The school offers 10 specialist sectors of training ending in degrees and diplomas; it also provides exchange programmes for its students. Its research laboratories are among of the best in the country and its findings are recognised globally. ENSAD has produced an impressive list of alumni, including the likes of graphic designer Philippe Apeloig, painter Leon Dabo and cartoonist Richard Isanove.


Part of University College London (UCL), the Slade School of Fine Art continues to rank as one of the best art and design schools in the country. Indulging in contemporary art and practice, the school prides itself in instilling the urge to enquire, investigate and experiment within its students. The school was judged the best in 2010’s Guardian University Guide and second in both the Complete University Guide and the Times Good University Guide, according to a peer review compiled by the Sunday Times. A four-year BA in Fine Art and three-year BFA in Fine Art are offered to its 140 full-time undergraduate students; its 120 graduate students have a choice of either an MA or an MFA in Fine Art. The school also provides non-degree short courses that are taught by practicing artists, a perfect springboard for professionals in the field who would like an extra edge to their career.


The Art Institute of Portland has an emphasis on undergraduate design education, involving coursework in the humanities, the sciences and communication. While there, students will also be given industry-relevant knowledge and advice to help them secure their first entry-level position and progress to a successful career. In fact, graduates from Art Institutes everywhere are known for their high quality and have been accepted into large international corporations, such as Time Warner, Nintendo of America, Marriot and the Ford Motor Company. The Art Institute of Portland opened in 1963, and has provided North America with skilled graduates since that time. The college is well respected in the US and Canada, and has several aims, including encouraging innovation in the arts and design fields, and promoting and supporting the artistic community of Portland. Read the full profile…


Pic: The Art Institute of Portland


Award-winning and internationally recognized, University College Falmouth is located in Cornwall in the UK. Its culture of excellence and exploration sets its aside in building an atmosphere of nurture that forms the foundation for a rich learning experience. Its School of Art & Design and Media & Performance is home to a range of innovative, collaborative and transformative experiences in education, offering its students the opportunity to produce ground-breaking work. The school draws the most creative minds from across the world, creating a melting pot of cultures and backgrounds, making learning at this university a truly international experience.


Ireland’s National College of Art and Design is the premier arts institution in the country, offering the largest range of undergraduate and postgraduate degree in the field. Founded in 1746, the college has more than 750 students who form the fabric of this vibrant and energetic institute. It is also home to a further 800 students who avail of the college’s non-award evening classes. Four faculties in Design, Fine Art, Education and Visual Culture give the college that extra edge that makes it a popular student destination. A list of notable alumni such as William Orpen, William Butler Yeats and Patrick Swift makes it an institute with a legacy of high achievement.


Scotland’s creative hub in Dundee is recognised as one of the premier schools of art and design in the UK. It is widely recognised for its international standards of practice and research where students are urged to immerse themselves in the world of contemporary art and are trained in honing their skills and knowledge to succeed in this intensely competitive industry. Students at this college have a history of success, having won the most number of awards at the London New Designers exhibition compared to any other institute in the UK. With a thriving network of collaborating museums and galleries such as Victoria and Albert Museum, TATE and MoMa in New York, students at the institute receive one of the most desired exposures to kick-start their careers.


A private art college in New York City, Pratt Institute is a leading art school for undergraduates in the US. With a mission to educate artists and creative professionals to responsibly contribute to society, the institute provides a strong grounding in the liberal arts and sciences, blending with ease theory and creative application. With two satellite campuses in Manhattan and Utica, the institute has four schools: Architecture, Art & Design, Information & Library Science, Liberal Arts & Sciences, and the Centre for Continuing & Professional Studies. It offers 22 undergraduate and 25 postgraduate degrees along with seven double-degree programmes for its students to take advantage of.


China’s only advanced academy of fine arts under the direct supervision of the country’s Department of Education, this institute is known as the country’s most prestigious and internationally recognised university. Founded in 1950, the name of the institute was penned by Mao Zedong. It is also reputed to be the first national school of fine arts in the country’s history. It boasts of six specialty schools, including the School of City Design and the School of Chinese Painting. More than 500 professors and almost 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students, including more than 100 international students, makes this China’s answer to leading fine arts institutes.


Pic: City University London.


Australia’s public dual sector university in Melbourne is known for its five campuses across the city and one in Malaysia. The university boasts of 7,000 international students and has a thriving Faculty of Design that offers a choice of eight programmes, including Design Anthropology and Product Design Engineering. There are also research programmes available including Master of Design (by Research), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Doctor of Design (DDes). The faculty draws from a strong industry base and successful partnerships in more than 30 countries. These provide students with the perfect opportunity to involve themselves in a truly international setting and get hands-on experience in the industry.


This art and design institute in California is reputed for its diversity and creativity, key elements to this not-for-profit university’s success. Proud to be the first independent school of art in southern California, Otis has more than 1,200 undergraduate students; it has raised more than $1 million for scholarships at its Annual Fashion Show and is home to 200,000 small businesses. Interesting trivia capturing its alumni include that Bambi was created by Tyrus Wong, an artist for Disney and Warner. The special effects for the Lord of the Rings trilogy was supervised by alumnus Jim Rygiel, and the historic Oscar statue was sculpted by alumnus George Maitland Stanley. The institute provides five undergraduate programmes and four for graduate studies.


One of the oldest colleges in the United States, MICA’s fine arts programmes were ranked second in the 2008 US News and World Report. With a legacy in training tomorrow’s artists and designers, the college has created a pool of creative and talented individuals who form an integral part of the fine arts industry in the US and abroad. With several prestigious accolades such as being named one of the top two studio arts programs in the country by Parade magazine and the ‘Best Northeastern College’ by Princeton Review in 2008, 2009 and 2010, MICA is a popular choice for all visual artists. With more than 1,700 undergraduate students and 218 graduate students, the institute brings together 52 countries to take advantage of its reputed BFA, MFA and MA degrees.


A leading school in the UK, RCA is located in the heart of London and is renowned for being the world’s only exclusive school for postgraduate art and design studies. Paving the way for success in the creative industries, programmes are taught by internationally reputed artists, theorists and practitioners. Recent figures from the college indicate that 93% of its students have graduated to gain employment within their chosen specialist fields. RCA offers over 20 programmes to choose from including Conservation and Design Products. RCA provides a unique educational environment engaging students in creative learning with innovative methods to truly prepare them for this challenging industry.


Progressive university The New School inspires its 10,000 strong students to bring positive change to the world. Located in Greenwich Village in New York, it launches the careers of designers, film makers, dancers and jazz musicians among others. Its specialist school, the Parsons School for Design, is reputed for preparing its students to be leaders in the industry. Parsons comprises of five schools: School of Fashion, School of Constructed Environments, School of Art, Media and Technology, School of Design Strategies and the School of Art and Design History and Theory. Its 27 degree programmes are rigorous in nature but produce the brightest minds and the leaders of tomorrow.


Pic: DigiPen


LASALLE College of the Arts is a popular choice in Singapore for higher education in design, art and media studies on the back of its continuing dedication to focused, innovative teaching. The institute has been the force behind some of the brightest and most successful minds in Singapore and abroad. Its comprehensive range of degrees and diplomas cover the fields of design, fine art, film, media arts, fashion, dance, music theatre, art history, art therapy and art management. The college prides itself on its hands-on approach and its progressive teaching methods. It is accredited as part of the UK’s Open University; hence, its 23 undergraduate and graduate degrees and its 12 diplomas offer a strong and internationally recognised qualification. The college further prides itself on its student-teacher ratio, exceeding no more than 23 students per teacher.


Founded in 1975, the university comprises four colleges specialising in education in fine arts, architecture, media and design, music, and the performing arts. Home to about 4,500 students, Berlin University of the Arts is reputed to be the world’s largest institution of music and arts. A wide variety of programmes are there to choose from including Cultural Journalism and Music Therapy. Notable alumni include composers Isang Yun and Kurt Weill. The university prides itself on its diversity and creativity that together make a truly unique combination. This is demonstrated as the university proudly boasts of more than 130 international partnerships and 800 international students. Furthermore, more than 100 students from Berlin University of the Arts spend their time abroad on exchange programmes to truly understand the meaning and nature of diversity.


One of the largest centres of culture in Europe, the Utrecht School of the Arts (HKU) offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the fields of fine art, design, music, theatre, media, games and interaction, and arts management. This school in the Netherlands is well known for its exchange programmes, including the Erasmus programme, which provides an opportunity to attend classes in Dutch but also provides English supervision so that every student grasps the full extent of the course. With more than 3,800 students, HKU is a hub of creativity and a melting pot of cultures. The institute has several international partnerships and collaborations under way, and has a network of almost 200 international educational institutes to provide its graduates with an increased opportunity to succeed in their careers.


The CCA was founded in 1907 and is recognised for its interdisciplinary approach to education, offering 21 undergraduate and seven postgraduate degrees in the fields of fine arts, architecture, design and writing. Its two campuses in California host a student population of almost 2,000. CCA prides itself on creating a community of artists and works on how this creativity can be tapped to positively influence and help society. The college has a passion to ‘Make Art that Matters’ and has standing principles of pushing boundaries, being bold and innovative, and engaging in an international fraternity.


This institute is known in the US for being the world’s first college to offer an undergraduate degree in game development. Its international campus in Singapore educates its students in a manner in which they are able to face and compete in an industry that is highly performance-driven, inculcating within them unique and interactive learning in order to engage today’s fierce job market. It offers four exciting undergraduate degrees in Real-Time Interactive Stimulation, Game Design, and Digital Art and Animation. This is definitely a stop for all wannabe game designers.