Royal College of Art best place in the world to study art and design, rankings show

The QS World University Rankings compares 950 universities worldwide across different subjects, and has named the RCA as the most prestigious place to take art and design in 2018.

Dyson building, Royal College of Art (RCA) Battersea campus. © Richard Haughton.

The Royal College of Art (RCA) has been found to be the number one university across the world to study art and design, according to the QS World University Rankings 2018.

US beating the UK at art and design

However, the research also shows that the US is significantly beating the UK in terms of world-leading art and design university study.

The QS World University Rankings compare how 950 universities across the world perform in 48 subject areas, based on different factors.

This includes academic reputation; employer reputation after students leave university; staff to student ratio; the research and academic paper quality coming out of the university (measured by the number of citations they get from other academic papers); and the amount of international staff and students.

According to this year’s table, the RCA tops the charts for art and design – but US universities are still seen to be more prestigious in the subject area.

RCA and UAL in top 10

There are only two UK universities in the top 10, with the other being the University of the Arts London (UAL), coming in at number seven.

US-based universities dominate, holding six places in the top 10, with Parsons School of Design in second place, followed by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), then Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Other US universities include Pratt Institute, School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and Stanford University. Italy’s Politecnico di Milano and Finland’s Aalto University also make it in.

Art and design judged on employability and reputation

Ben Sowter, director of research at QS, says that art and design was judged solely on academic quality and employability factors, as they are vocational rather than “research paper-intensive” subject areas.

“The RCA is generally regarded by academics in the field as being the world’s superior institution for art and design, boasting a score of 100/100 for academic reputation,” he says.

“It is also among the world’s strongest producers of employable graduates – perhaps in recognition of the number of outstanding painters, designers, and Turner Prize winners that leave the RCA, it scores 88.8/100 for employer reputation, leaving it with an overall score of 98.8/100.”

“Little difference” in job prospects between UK and US grads

Sowter adds that US-based universities tend to be seen as stronger academically than UK ones, but there is little difference between the two in terms of landing a job after finishing a course.

“US institutions enjoy slightly stronger recognition among academics in the field than UK ones, with the average US academic reputation score a few points higher than that of UK institutions,” he says. “But as far as graduate employability is concerned, there is very little difference between the two: employers perceived very little difference between, say, a graduate from UAL, and one from RISD in our surveys.”

“Asian universities are rapidly moving up the ranks”

Paul Thompson, vice-chancellor at the RCA, adds that leading UK universities also need to keep up with other global leading universities outside of the US.

“Striving for research and teaching excellence and placing our alumni in leadership roles internationally are essential requisites for UK universities to stay ahead of the game,” he says.

“This will be about ‘keeping up’ with US competitors, but also, keeping a view in the rear mirror, because many Asian universities – the National University of Singapore, for example – are moving rapidly up the ranks.”

See the full QS World University Rankings for art and design here. The rankings do not split art and design up into specific disciplines.

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