Leading creative arts programs for Asian students
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Leading creative arts programs for Asian students

In the interplay of global economics, some of the trade-offs between nations are relatively predictable. For example, rising healthcare costs on one side of the world drive the development of medical tourism infrastructure on the other. However, there are less foreseeable – or at least less obvious – exchanges at work as well. One of these is the dynamic relationship between artists in the East and collectors in the West.

Interest in the arts generally tracks with the prosperity of a given community. As means and welfare rise, so does artistic output. In recent years, we’ve seen this play out in the developing economies of Asia. The emergent middle class in countries such as India and China has become increasingly prolific in all manner of creative arts. The international twist: buyers, purveyors and curators in the West can’t get enough of the work Asian artists are creating.


Pic: NMU jewellery making.

The arts scene in New York City is a good litmus test of this phenomenon. Christie’s, the world-famous fine art auction house, reports that Asian art is among its top-three most-lucrative genres. Every spring, the arts giant headlines New York’s “Asian Art Week”, a collaborative effort between five auction houses and 17 museums that brought in just shy of US$70 million this year. That’s in a single week.

Given this international appetite for Eastern art, it comes as no surprise that students in Asia are taking an increased interest in creative arts education. Romantic as it was, the notion of the ‘starving artist’ is officially old-fashioned. Today’s art school graduates are finding an abundance of work – not only in studios, galleries and museums – but also with design teams, advertising specialists, manufacturers and a host of other employers. Art majors are perfecting ergonomic contours, pioneering 3D animation technology and adding flash to functionality.


Pic: DJCAD at dusk.

A degree in creative arts is, by its very nature, an interdisciplinary venture. It’s more than a mere aesthetic pursuit. Even the Renaissance sculptor had to be adept with workman’s tools. Today’s art majors are complementing their degree with competencies in computer programming, marketing – even ethics and sustainability. Branching out like this into other disciplines boosts employability and deepens the well of inspiration.

At this point in time, the best place to pursue a creative arts degree is still in the West. There are thousands of art schools and colleges out there, but the best stand out for their cutting-edge facilities – an essential selling point for any serious student of the arts. Any art school that’s investing heavily in the latest technology and equipment is likely to be putting just as much care into selecting its faculty. Professors at these schools have been shown, curated, awarded. In short, they’re experts in their craft.

The following are some of the leading worldwide creative arts programs for Asian students:

The Faculty of Fine Arts at York University is a leader in North America. This is Canada’s largest fine arts faculty, and it’s well-known for the strong interdisciplinary approach to education. Given the scope of coursework on offer at York, this is an excellent place for students to build a foundation in the arts while exploring other fields and adding layers of expertise to their degree. York University’s main Keele Campus is in Toronto, a dynamic and diverse city that doubles as an ideal venue for creative arts study. Art galleries abound, and a yearlong lineup of festivals presents the perfect opportunity to network with likeminded people. Toronto also plays regular hosts to film crews for independent films and Hollywood blockbusters, alike. Read the full profile…


Pic: York film shoot.

Faculty of Arts, Media and Design at Staffordshire University in the UK is a leading contender for Asian students seeking a degree in creative arts. The university merged with and descended from the Stoke-on-Trent Regional College of Art in the 1970s and maintains a strong reputation in creative-arts communities. Staffordshire’s degree programs are internationally accredited, and beyond this, a degree from the UK carries strong currency virtually anywhere in the world. Not only do students work under some of the most respected minds in their respective creative fields, they also earn degrees that turn heads and open doors to dynamic career opportunities. Read the full profile…


Pic: Staffordshire gallery.

One of the pleasures of studying the creative arts at a large state school like Northern Michigan University is the chance to branch out into interdisciplinary pursuits. A school of this calibre can afford to specialize in a comprehensive range of studies, and this means that students receive world-class instruction regardless of their area of specialty. Take the School of Art and Design as an example. It boasts 110,000 square feet of studios and is backed by roughly US$1 million worth of state-of-the-art equipment – and this is just for the creative arts students. Venture out across campus, and you’ll find four other colleges with equally impressive facilities and faculty. This presents art students with opportunities to inspiring or even career-boosting specialties to their course of study. Read the full profile…

Western Australia’s Edith Cowan University was established in 1991 and quickly rose to prominence. It’s a young institute by Western standards, but it was recently singled out by Times Higher Education as one of the 100 leading universities under 50 years old. ECU has extensive experience working with Asian and international students. Non-residents are fully supported by on-campus advisors. Furthermore, Australia has a longstanding reputation for excellent distance-learning programs. With that in mind, it is entirely possible to earn a degree from ECU without leaving your home country. Read the full profile…


Pic: ECU campus.

A leading art and design school in Scotland, Duncan of Jordanstone has a stalwart international reputation as well. It’s a creative hub with access to multiple networks. For Asian students serious about developing creative arts skills and credentials, few institutes are as attractive as DJCAD. The art school has been the recipient of significant acclaim in recent history. In the past two years, students from DJCAD have won more awards at the London New Designers exhibition than those of any other university or art institute in the UK. A Turner Prize for Art and four additional nominations have also been associated with DJCAD in recent years. Read the full profile…

Though formed in the 21st century, the UK’s University of the Creative Arts traces its lineage back 150 years through its founding colleges. Today, the university is spread across five campuses and operates state-of-the-art studios and facilities in which students can develop skills and put academic insight to work. The world owes the UCA a significant creative debt. In the few years since its 2005 launch, this institute has produced Oscar-winning filmmakers, celebrity fashion designers and Turner Prize nominees. No doubt, even more and greater achievements will follow students enrolling now and the near future. Read the full profile…


Pic: UCA graduation.

This University of California arts school specializes in dance, drama, music and studio art. Located in Orange County on the outskirts of Los Angeles, CTSA has long been associated with performance and the silver screen. That said, this is much more than a school for Hollywood actors. Graduates are found on Broadway, in concert halls, in recording studios and – of course – in art galleries around the world. At both undergraduate and graduate levels, a degree from CTSA involves a great deal of time spent in studio, at workshops and on stage.

The Basel School of Design has existed in its present form since 2000 when it joined forces with the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), but its roots as a graphic design school date to the 1960s. Today, the institute offers two international Master’s Degree programs: an MFA in Graphic Design and an MA in Visual Communication and Iconic Research. International research projects and summer workshops are also conducted in English and cater specifically to international students looking to launch or further develop a career in graphic design.