The most creative universities in the UK


London has three of the ten best universities for creative students

A study has found that three of the most creative universities in the UK are in London.

The research, which was carried out by template provider Design Bundles, analysed a number of different factors, finding the University College London (UCL) in the top spot, with Kingston University and Goldsmiths, University of London coming ninth and tenth.

The analysis was compiled using data from the Complete University Guide (CUG)’s top 50 UK universities offering creative courses, and giving each one an index score when also taking into account the number of registered creative businesses in each city and the average yearly salary in the area.

Thanks to its CUG rank of two, a high number of creative companies registered close to its campus in Westminster and an average salary in the area of £36,348 according to Office of National Statistics (ONS) data, UCL comes in first place.

Famous creative alumni from this London university include Christopher Nolan, who directed the ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy, illustrator Raymond Briggs and sculptor Anthony Gormley.

The second-best university for creative students is the University of Glasgow, despite its low ranking of 19 on the CUG. The reason it ranks so highly on this list is that the city boasts a massive 996 creative businesses, offering graduates who choose to stay in the area a large number of career opportunities within the creative industry.

Another Scottish city, Edinburgh, offers the second highest number of registered creative businesses, however it’s the University of Oxford which takes the third-place spot in this study. This is due to its number one position on the CUG ranking, its location in an area with 238 businesses in the arts and culture sector and an average salary of £27,012 per annum – that’s one of the highest wages outside of London.

Scotland’s capital hosts two of the top ten creative universities: The University of Edinburgh, which comes fourth in the study and Heriot-Watt University, which places eighth. The city is home to 685 businesses that are in the creative sector, with a number of annual cultural events like Edinburgh Festival contributing to the city’s status as one of Britain’s top creative hubs.

The University of Reading, the University of Leeds and Newcastle University also make it onto the list of the best places to study creative courses.

Kingston University, in southwest London, comes ninth for being in an area that has a high average salary of £29,856 and ranking ten on the CUG list. There are only 105 registered fashion businesses in the vicinity, though.

In tenth place is another London university: Goldsmiths. While there are only 96 creative businesses in the area, it’s got a CUG ranking of nine and people working nearby get paid a high average annual wage of £30,504.

“A-level results are at an all-time high, so it is an exciting time for students heading to university,” says a spokesperson from Design Bundles. “For creative students, it’s essential to be surrounded by a creative environment which any of these top ten universities appear to provide.”

What are the top ten UK universities for creative students?

The full results of the research are as follows:

Rank University Ranking on Complete University Guide Number of registered creative businesses in the area Average salary per area Index Score
1 University College London (UCL) 2 293 £35,496 12
2 University of Glasgow 5 996 £23,292 17
3 University of Oxford 1 238 £27,012 18
4 University of Reading 6 292 £27,804 20
5 University of Leeds 7 598 £23,304 22
6 University of Edinburgh 14 684 £25,584 23
7 Newcastle University 3 307 £22,236 23
8 Heriot-Watt University 15 684 £25,584 26
9 Kingston University 10 105 £29,856 27
10 Goldsmiths, University of London 9 96 £30,504 30

What courses do London’s top three creative universities offer?

University College London

Media BA

This three-year course is aimed at ambitious media students, providing them with the opportunity to take up a work placement in one of London’s many media industries, galleries and museums in their second year of study.

The course encourages students to think in an entrepreneurial way about the design and uses of the media, teaching them how the media functions and how it’s made and experienced.

Students will reach an advanced level in at least one of the two most important media forms for the UK economy: Film-making and digital games and interactive media.

Fine Art BA

This is a four-year programme where students learn about fine art media, painting and sculpture, with an integrated history and theory of art component to help them contextualise their studio work and understand how art is displayed and interpreted.

It’s a practice-based course and students are expected to develop their own work, with tutorial help from practising artists and scholars who have made names for themselves within the industry.

They’re mainly taught via seminars and tutorial groups, however, they can benefit from talks by visiting artists and gallery visits too.

Kingston University

Illustration Animation BA (Hons)

According to the Guardian’s 2021 university league table, Kingston University is the best in the UK for design and crafts and this course is the UK’s first degree in illustration animation.

The course covers every aspect of illustration and animation, from the traditional printed page, film and television to digital objects to virtual and augmented reality.

Students are given complete creative freedom and are encouraged to learn through making. They have access to all workshops so they can make prototypes using a wide range of processes, including ceramics, laser cutting and 3D printing.

Fashion BA (Hons)

In 2019, Fashionista named Kingston University as one of the top 25 fashion schools in the world and the very next year, the Guardian ranked its Fashion degree as the best fashion course in London in its university league table.

The course encourages students to develop their own signature style through sketch work, knitwear and digital print, as well as learning about how design is influenced by cultural, social and historical circumstances.

Students doing this course can also benefit from strong links to the fashion industry, with graduates going on to work at companies including Alexander McQueen, All Saints, Burberry, Calvin Klein, Club Monaco, Paul Smith and Saint Laurent.

Goldsmiths University of London

BA (Hons) Design

Undergraduates studying this course don’t just learn a set of practical skills; they’re taught how design affects the environment as a whole, as they investigate its role in culture and society.

Students are given briefs by real companies and in their second year, they have the opportunity to do a placement, with past graduates working at companies like Selfridges and Alexander McQueen.

Graduates from this course have gone on to work for the likes of Google, LEGO, Dyson and Burberry and have won awards such as the RSA Design Directions Award and the New Designer of the Year Award.

MA Dramaturgy & Writing for Performance

As with all of these London-based courses, students are based in one of the world’s biggest artistic and performance hubs, meaning there’s plenty of opportunity for creative networking.

This master’s programme has strong links to multiple London-based practitioners, international networks and venues in the field of new performance writing, many of which contribute directly to the teaching of the course.

Students are encouraged to establish a distinguished approach as a writer and dramaturge by developing texts for performance, the last of which is performed and directed by industry professionals at the Soho Theatre and attended by key industry representatives.