RCA and UAL are the best universities in the world to study design

The QS World University Rankings looks at the most prestigious universities globally for different subject areas, and this year, the Royal College of Art and University of the Arts London have topped the list for art and design.

Courtesy of Wimbledon College of Arts, University of the Arts London (UAL)

The RCA and UAL are the best places in the world to study art and design, research from the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings shows.

This year’s list ranks 1,222 of the world’s universities across five subject areas and 48 individual subjects, looking at six sets of criteria.

This includes: academic reputation; employer reputation after students leave university; staff to student ratio; the quality of academic papers (measured by how many citations they get from other academic papers); and international staff to student ratio.

Art and design subjects have only been measured by academic and employer reputation, given that research papers are not a key part of visual arts subjects. QS has not made clear whether student to staff ratio has also been taken into account.

The research involved gathering responses from nearly 84,000 academics, and 43,000 employers. The 2019 rankings were compiled using data taken over a five-year timespan, from 2013 to 2018.

UAL jumps up four places

This year’s top 10 for art and design sees three spots taken by UK-based universities, including RCA in the top spot, UAL at number two, and the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) at number eight.

RCA holds the crown from last year, but UAL has jumped up four spots, while GSA has jumped up eight spots, meaning the number of UK universities in the top 10 has climbed from two to three.

A spokesperson at UAL says: “QS reputational surveys indicate that UAL and RCA are held in higher esteem among academics in the field than any other institutions in the world, achieving the two highest scores for academic reputation.”

Top 10 still dominated by US universities

Last year, the top 10 was dominated by US-based universities. This remains the case, with five US-based institutions making it into the top 10, including Parsons School of Design, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and the Pratt Institute. All of these featured in last year’s top 10. Stanford University is the only one to have dropped out.

Italy’s Politecnico di Milano and Finland’s Aalto University also return to the top 10 this year.

British creative education “at risk”

Ben Sowter, director of research at QS, says that while the rankings provide “reassurance” of the competitiveness of UK universities, the impact that Brexit will have on their performance “is still unknown”.

Nigel Carrington, vice-chancellor at UAL, says the university’s improvement in ranking is due to its “specialist institutions”, which include fashion, art, communications and computing, and its capacity to address “important [current] challenges” such as artificial intelligence and data, sustainability and skills shortages in augmented, virtual and mixed reality.

But he adds that British creative education is “at risk” with regards to the UK’s impending exit from the European Union (EU). “We look to the Government to renew its commitment to teaching art and design in schools and to guarantee our global network of international and EU staff and students,” he says.

For the full QS World University Rankings 2019, head here.

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