Creating a perfect career: Leading creative industries courses for Asian students
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Creating a perfect career: Leading creative industries courses for Asian students

UPDATE: Please see our 2012 review of the world’s leading international creative industries schools here. Or continue reading for the 2011 edition…

AS the world mourns the loss of Apple’s founder Steve Jobs, it is worth remembering that he wasn’t just a man of technology, but also a great advocate of creativity, beauty and design.

Jobs once said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” His words are important, for not only do they highlight the relevance of creativity in today’s times but they also reflect on the rising awareness of, and demand for, the functionality of creativity.

Probably until just a few decades ago, creative industries subjects such as music, photography, fashion, painting, dance, sculpting or design were perceived as nothing more than hobbies with which to kill some spare time. They were not considered as serious careers.


Steve Jobs, a master of design. Pic: AP.

Yet, today, when you look around, it is the people from the creative industries who fascinate and inspire us. Artists and creative geniuses such as Anish Kapoor, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tracy Amin, Gok Wan, Giorgio Armani and Elton John have redefined the position of the creative disciplines and made them the flavour of the day.  Creative industries have deeply penetrated the commercial markets, creating a heightened demand for those who have studied the subjects.

Daniel H. Pink’s much talked-about prophecy (as stated in Harvard Business Review’s February edition of 2004) regarding the MFA being the new-age MBA has been proved correct. Fine arts and other creative industries graduates are as sought-after by multi-national companies as they are by art galleries. With greater awareness and appreciation for the creative faculties comes increased demand for creative industries graduates.

While art galleries, theatres, music bands, orchestras and performance groups will always be obvious choices for many students, graduates are also securing high-paying entry level positions  in such fields such as advertising, automotive industry, entertainment, transport, fashion, music, publishing, media, healthcare, construction, retail, education, technology and more.

The canvas has been repainted and the concept of the starving artist has been thrown out of the window. Graduates from the right creative industries programmes can go on to secure affluent and successful careers while maintaining that creative edge. There is no dearth of projects or opportunities for anybody with a passion for creativity.

A course in creative industries allows students to connect with their creative instincts while learning the ins and outs of commercial viability. Such courses also offer a wide base to make the right connections and network within the creative industry.


Pic: University of Falmouth.

Whether you choose your medium to be colours, dance forms, drums, sand, glass or graphics, choosing your institute and what it can offer you becomes a crucial decision. Some students will want to concentrate on a specific subject, while others will prefer a university that allows easy movement across different art forms and media.

The faculty of the institute and for the course also matters a lot and it is advisable to visit the website of the university to find out who the staff are and what their achievements have been. Often, it is the direct links between the faculty and the industry which open up opportunities for students. It is even better if the academics of the institute are themselves active in the industry. This way you will not only be learning the subjects, but also picking up professional tips in the classroom.

The institute should also have ample facilities and infrastructure such as studios, recording rooms, instruments, auditoriums, equipment and sufficient room for each student to operate in an unhindered manner and the let creativity flow.

How active the institute is in the field of creativity in terms of participating in festivals, annual events, shows, ceremonies, awards, exhibitions and art galleries is also a good indicator. The more the course invites guest lecturers, eminent achievers from the sector, field trips, real life opportunities for students to mingle with the best talents in the sector, international collaborations, internships, and summer work opportunities, the better it is for the students.

Gaining entry into a top creative industries programme may not always be a cake walk. Student often have to show prior interest, achievements and talent in the sector to gain admission. Hence, it is best if you have a portfolio ready and some examples of your work to show to the institute when you go for the admission interview. Convincing the faculty of your creative talents is as important as communicating successfully your passion for the creative industries.

We have compiled a list of some of the best institutes offering courses in the creative industries for Asian students. Take a look to see which ones appeal to you…

A highly acclaimed university singularly devoted to the creative industries, the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) is one of the leading institutes in the UK. The UCA was formed in 2005 after the merger of The Surrey Institute of Art & Design and the Kent Institute of Art & Design. With five campuses spread across the Southeast England (Canterbury, Farnham, Rochester, Epsom and Maidstone), UCA has over 7,000 students enrolled. All five campuses are hubs of creativity and artistic talent attracting some of the brightest minds. The university is noted for its culture of creativity, high standards of teaching, interdisciplinary approach, state-of-the-art facilities and a wide range of courses. Read the full profile…


Pic: College of the Creative Arts - WVU.

The College of Creative Arts – West Virginia University is a reputed institute providing courses in art, design, music, theatre and dance. Giving preference to quality over quantity, it carefully selects the best students and places here are highly sought after. With more than 100 academics for the 800 students, the institute offers a close-knit environment where individual growth and molding of talent is possible. Illustrious alumni include Star Trek composer Jay Chattaway, Pittsburgh Symphony musician Chad Winkler, costume designer Mary McClung and actor David Selby. Guided by the ambitious 2020 Strategic Plan for the Future, WVU soared in this year’s U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges rankings. The report ranked WVU No. 89 among ‘Top Public Schools’ – up eight spots from No. 97 last year. Read the full profile…

Those interested in a career in the creative industries would do well to consider the The Basel School of Design, a part of the Academy of Art and Design at the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW). It offers internationally accredited courses in The Basel School of Designs at undergraduate (BA) and postgraduate (MA, MFA) level. As part of a large and active global network of Art and Design Schools, it has a lot to offer its students in terms of facilities, opportunity and learning. Located in the perfect locales of Switzerland, the institute offers top-notch infrastructure, facilities and an educational experience which is rich and liberating. Read the full profile…

The University of Salford is home to 20,000 students, including over 3,000 international students from more than 130 countries around the world. The main university campus is located less than three kilometres from the centre of Manchester, only 16 kilometres from Manchester International Airport, and just over two hours from London. Since October 4, 2011 the University of Salford has been at the heart of MediaCityUK, a cutting edge facility bringing together the best of the UK’s media, digital and creative industries. The University believes in giving students the best support possible, offering generous scholarships so students can concentrate on achieving their career goals not on their bank balance. Read the full profile…


Pic: University of California, Irvine.

As one of the top ranking universities in the world, the University of California, Irvine is a class apart. A member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, the university was ranked at number 58th in Fine Arts and as 45th best national university by U.S. News Best Colleges rankings this year. The university’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts is one of the most distinguished and highly renowned fountainheads of talent in the creative arts industry. The School offers courses in the fields of dance, drama, music and studio arts, as well as a minor in digital arts. As one of the US’ most-acclaimed centres devoted to the creative industries, the School is famous for some of the most celebrated actors in America. Read the full profile…



University College Falmouth is an established institution with a long list of achievements to its name. It was the highest ranked University College outside London according to the Guardian’s Good University Guide 2012, and was ranked in the Top 10 in the UK for Arts and Design by the Sunday Times Good University Guide 2011. University College Falmouth offers some of the finest courses in art, design, media, performance and writing around, and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that it is one of the UK’s leading specialist arts institutions. The institute is based in Cornwall, which provides it a great location and an inspirational atmosphere to cultivate creative talents. Read the full profile…


Pic: University of Bolton.

The University of Bolton was constituted in 2005 when Bolton Institute of Higher Education was given university status by the Privy Council. Situated in Greater Manchester, UK, the University of Bolton is home to more than 13,000 students and more than 700 staff. The university received excellent ratings from QAA in textile-related subjects, while its research in materials is considered to be of national importance. The university’s School of Arts, Media and Education offers undergraduate, postgraduate and professional development courses in art and design, and creative media and cultural studies. The university’s School of Business and Creative Technologies offers courses in computing, creative technologies and games. Read the full profile…

Aalto University School of Art and Design is one of the six schools of Aalto University, one of the leading Finnish higher education providers. The Aalto University School of Art and Design is devoted to the education of design, media, art education and art. The School offers 101 Bachelors of Art degrees, 179 Master of Arts degrees and 12 Doctor of Arts degrees—giving a glimpse of the immense calibre and potential that the institute holds. Its near 2000 student population is inspired and taken care of by 53 professors and 439 personnel. Read the full profile…

Ranked among the Top 100 universities in the world, the University of Southampton is an ideal place to learn fine arts. Its Winchester School of Art is one of 25 schools at the university and is committed to becoming a major international centre for research in global art and design, culture and communication. Creative talent is nurtured and honed in order to bring out the best in students. A focused approach helps improve each individual’s performance and provide learning, which fits well with industry demands. The School offers an impressive range of courses in design, fine arts, photography, digital media, textiles, fashion, and more. Read the full profile…

Weaving a remarkable tale of success, Heriot-Watt University’s School of Textiles and Design has been preparing graduates to enter the textile and fashion industries for well over a century. Established in 1883, the institute has evolved and changed with the times to offer contemporary learning to its students. As the second oldest textile school in the world it has a vast repository of experience to share with the students who choose to enrol there. As a specialist institute focusing singularly on textiles, its merit, credibility and excellence has been regularly acknowledged in surveys, rankings and popular opinion. The Sunday Times ranked Art and Design studies at Heriot-Watt University as the best in Scotland while the Telegraph ranked it second in the UK. Read the full profile…


Pic: Middlesex University.

Outstanding academic credentials, a wide range of courses and excellent facilities greet students who choose Middlesex University to study creative industries subjects. The university delivers quality education in the field of fine arts and design. With its history dating back to the 1880s, it forms a part of the post-1992 universities and is a part of the Million+ Group. From fine arts and graphic design to photography and 3D animation, Middlesex University offers students hundreds of course choices at undergraduate and postgraduate level that allow them to explore their creative potential. As an innovative centre of higher education that brings out the best in its students, Middlesex University’s School of Arts and Education is the focal point for some of the most creative minds in the UK.  Read the full profile…





An overwhelming choice of courses greets students at Victoria University (VU), a ‘one-stop shop’ for any kind of course in the creative industries. Whether you want a certificate course or an advanced diploma or a degree, VU offers it all. A highly competent faculty with close industry and community ties allows students to gain industry skills even as they study. Students are introduced to contemporary theories and are taught to apply their learning in real-life projects. Excellent facilities and resources bring out the best in students. Through the VU’s Study Pathways options, students have the opportunity to complete some of the courses faster by getting credit for any previous study or experience they may have.

Free-flowing creativity encouraged through an interdisciplinary approach forms the essence of LASALLE. It is one of Asia’s leading contemporary arts colleges, offering courses in fine arts, design, media and performing arts. The institute prides itself on offering real-life education where theory comes after practice. LASALLE is an accredited institution of the UK’s The Open University. Students’ creativity and individuality are encouraged and nurtured here. A super active campus life is offered with an inexhaustible list of exhibitions and performances, and creative industries giants visit the college regularly. Illustrious alumni of the college have received local as well as international fame.

As one of the most popular universities among students for its arts and design education, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) offers an exciting and conducive ground for creative minds to blossom. The university offers numerous courses in the field of creative industries, be it ceramics, architecture, interior design, animation, acting and so on. It boasts some attractive features, such as a £15 million state-of-the-art Media Factory which has been set up to support work in design, fine arts and performing arts while aiming to help UCLAN students to set up their own businesses. Courses are available full-time, part-time and online. There is a colourful range of courses to choose from and the availability of the latest technology, equipment and resources make studying at UCLAN a worthy option.

As one of the top ranking universities in the world, the University of Utah is known for the high quality of its programmes. The interdisciplinary and practical approach to the subjects is one of the reasons why students love to seek admission here. Its College of Fine Arts focuses on six disciplines: music; art and art history; ballet; film and media arts; modern dance; and theatre. The Department of Film and Media offers an in-depth understanding of all issues related to cinema. From examining the history to analysing contemporary approaches, the department inspires students to create their own style.


Pic: The Basel School of Design.

Swinburne’s unique selling point is its innovative and cutting edge programmes in design, film and television, which define ‘world-class’ in the true sense of the word. Design Anthropology, Design/Business Double Degree, Product Design Engineering and Communication Design are some of the popular courses available. The university not only offers undergraduate and postgraduate programs in creative industries but also has one of the most unique and internationally acclaimed PhD programmes in Design. There are also Technical And Further Education (TAFE) qualifications aimed at equipping students with practical skills necessary for employment. Courses are available in Digital Media, Design and Film and TV, Visual, Performing and Circus Arts.

A top-ranking university on an international platform, City University of Hong Kong is a class apart. Its School of Creative Media and Department of Media and Communications offer some very interesting courses in the creative industries. Degree courses in Creative Media, Integrated Strategic Communication, Media and Digital Media Broadcasting are available to students. The courses focus on technical competence while maintaining the artistic touch of the students’ creativity. Graduates develop an in-depth understanding of crucial issues in the field and form individual opinions on them. Perspectives and fundamentals shared in the classrooms are extremely international, making the graduates of City University ready to succeed on the world stage.

The power of imagination is immense and this is the basis on which the School of Visual Arts builds its students’ talents. Located in the prime city of New York, the institute offers a robust and rigorous curriculum for specializations like illustration, cartooning, advertising, computer art, animation, photography, and visual and critical studies, to name just a few. Award-winning faculty with distinguished achievements in the field of creative industries encourage students to think for themselves and push the limits of their imagination. Close industry links enable students to connect with key players in the creative business.

Situated in the buzzing city of Los Angeles, University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts is unique for a few reasons. For one, each of its faculty has worked or still works in a professional capacity in the cinema industry. Faculty members are distinguished in their field and have won illustrious awards such as Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes. Not only do faculty know exactly what the industry wants, they guide students to meet these demands. Ample resources, facilities, infrastructure and equipment also enable a rich learning experience.

The disciplines of media, performing and visual arts and design are taught at this prestigious institute… but with a difference. Learning at Westphal comprises of the essential experiences of not just studying, but also exploring and managing, the creative industries. With more than 16 degrees ranging from digital media and music to dance and fashion, the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design gives students the skills to be leading professionals. Academic curriculum not only focuses on harnessing the creative instinct, but also to merge it with professional practices and thinking which lay a solid foundation for students. Rich infrastructure, including studios for recording, designing and imaging, facilitate a superior learning process.

The School of Art, Design and Art History at San Diego State University (SDSU) is one of the top ranking fine arts institutions in the USA and offers carefully chosen degrees and specialisations to students. Undergraduate and master’s degrees are offered with specializations or “emphasis” in subjects such as Applied design, Art History, Graphic Design, Interior Design, Multimedia, Painting and Printmaking, and Sculpture, to name just a few. Its programs in jewellery and metalwork, and visual and performing arts, are considered as some of the best and most competitive in the world. The focus of the school is on creative growth and offers students a strong foundation as creative professionals in their chosen fields.

Although a young institute, the JMC Academy is already considered one of the leaders in providing creative industries courses in Australia. Offering programmes in music, television, film and digital media, the academy is solely dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in the creative arts. The curriculum here is designed to allow development of practical skills so that the graduates are industry-ready by the time they complete their degree. The academy constantly upgrades its equipment, facilities, resources and technology to give students as much cutting edge, real-time experience as possible.

An enviable range of degrees in the creative industries is the hallmark of the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). From the regular degrees in acting, fashion and fine arts to the most contemporary degrees in industrial design, sound design, and business/ and fashion—this university offers it all. Students have access to the latest in technology, workshops, lectures, events and facilities. Industry-standard studios and equipment allow students to develop their creative skills in the most professional environments. While drama students have access to ample performance spaces, music students have a whole music recording studio for themselves. In addition, the university’s industry partnerships with organisations like QUT Creative Enterprise Australia (CEA) help develop commercially-driven creative industries.


Degrees, diplomas, online courses and short-term courses in areas such as audio, filmmaking, digital journalism, animation, web design and game design give SAE Institute students a fast-track option to enter the much-coveted industry. Industry guest lecturers, a practical approach to learning, state-of-the-art equipment and fabulous infrastructure make learning at this institute a memorable experience. Internship opportunities with various leading companies in music, film, gaming and media give students the real-world experience they need to launch a successful career. The SAE Institute also owns and operates one of the top commercial recording studios in the country where students can benefit from its association with the key industry players.

Limkokwing University of Creative Technology is a young and vibrant university with the pulse of the creative industries in its hands. The university has the most innovative and exciting courses on the menu. Take for instance the BA(Hons) in Mobile Media Production or the B.Sc in Technopreneurship or Electronic Commerce. It also offers PhDs in Creative Industries and Art Practices, MBA in Multimedia Management and MA in International Contemporary Art and Design Practice. The courses offered are modern, current and very relevant in today’s times, and of course, there is a wide spectrum of them to choose from. The university offers several degree courses in Communication, Media and Broadcasting, Design Innovation, Information and Communication Technology and Multimedia Creativity.