Good University Guide 2023

University of the Arts, London

National rank

Firsts / 2:1s
Completion rate

Key stats

Teaching quality
Student experience
Research quality
Graduate prospects

The world needs creativity, declares a ten-year strategy for the University of the Arts London (UAL). James Purnell, the institution’s president and vice-chancellor, now in his second year of tenure, has outlined bold plans to double student numbers over the next decade.

The expansion is planned not only for the curriculum at UAL’s London campuses but more significantly via online delivery. UAL intends to use its experience of digital provision during the Covid-19 pandemic as a springboard. A former Labour cabinet minister and BBC director of strategy and digital, Purnell has been described as the “architect” of Tony Blair’s 50 per cent participation target for higher education. He believes that UAL has the capacity to respond to high demand for its courses while also widening access, making the institution more inclusive. 

UAL is one institution comprised of six distinct colleges founded in the 19th or early 20th centuries. Each has a unique identity and specialism: Camberwell College of Arts, Central St Martins College of Art and Design, Chelsea College of Arts, London College of Communication, London College of Fashion, and Wimbledon College of Arts.

Since becoming a university in 2003, UAL has established a reputation for innovation across the creative fields and has produced more than half of the nominees for the Turner prize since it was first awarded in 1984. The artist Grayson Perry — who won the Turner prize in 2003 — is UAL’s chancellor. His Grayson’s Robes competition challenges UAL students to design what he will wear at graduation ceremonies as an unconventional alternative to a formal black academic gown.

Superb facilities are found on all UAL’s sites. Central Saint Martins’ award-winning £200 million campus at King’s Cross is a defining feature in the area’s regeneration. The London College of Fashion (LCF) is moving its operations all over the capital to its new single campus at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London in September 2023. The college will join creative neighbours at its new home including Sadler's Wells, the V&A and the BBC.

The Greencoat Building opened in Camberwell, south London, in May 2022, as the base for UAL’s incubation programme for graduates of Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon Colleges of Arts. The new facility also provides space for the UAL Creative Computing Institute’s growing cohort of staff and students.

At Wimbledon College of Art the theatre has been refurbished to improve lighting and add wheelchair-accessible facilities. Eagle Wharf is UAL’s new Digital Hub in Peckham, south London. It will combine workshops for local people in digital skills with space for students and graduates to start creative enterprises. Student accommodation is also due to open on the site in September 2022. 

UAL made the largest submission for art and design in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021) — far eclipsing the next-largest contribution by the Royal College of Art. It climbs 25 places to reach the top 50 in our latest research quality index (47th), with 85 per cent of its work judged world-leading or internationally excellent, the top two categories.

On a global scale, UAL is second for art and design in the QS World University rankings 2022 for the fourth year running, behind only the Royal College of Art, a postgraduate institution. 

UAL was rated silver in the national Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), praised for its immersive, inquiry-led curriculum with plenty of opportunity for work placements and employer involvement via live briefs. The panel also highlighted continuing investment in industry-standard resources supported by excellent technicians. 

The university is aiming to reach its net zero target for carbon emissions by 2040. Students are taught to develop sustainable practices and business models. 

Recruitment remains strong at UAL. As the curriculum continues to become broader, undergraduate applications rose 9 per cent by the end of March 2022 compared with the same point in the previous admissions cycle. Seven degree programmes begin in September 2023, in data science and artificial intelligence, creative robotics, design for climate justice, service design, commercial photography, computer animation and visual effects, and fashion marketing and content creation. 

UAL is in the top half of our table for social inclusion. Since introducing contextual admissions in 2020, the university has increased its offers to students from disadvantaged and underrepresented groups. UAL aims to increase the proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic students to one third and staff to 30 per cent by 2024, building on a steady increase over recent years.  

Scholarship and bursary provision is extensive, with many awards linked to particular courses or entry pathways. The UAL Bursary of £1,000 per year of study is awarded to all UK students who get a full maintenance grant.  

Graduate prospects tend to present a hurdle for institutions dedicated to art and design and UAL is near the bottom of our analysis of the proportion of graduates in highly skilled work or further study after 15 months. UAL’s internal recruitment service, Arts Temps, teams up with employers to find temporary jobs for UAL students in the creative and non-creative sectors. Links with global brands are built into the curriculum — either via live briefs, work placements or other project-based work. UAL also runs about 150 consultancy projects with companies such as Microsoft, Levi’s and Unilever.

UAL has 21 full-time mental health professionals whose diversity reflects the student body, as well as 80 staff trained in mental health first aid. 

First-year international students are guaranteed accommodation, as are under-18s and disabled students. All others are allocated on a first come, first serve basis. 

UAL’s prime London locations make for student-friendly downtime, with clubs and vintage shops, great food and galleries on the doorstep.

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Category Score Rank
Ranking - 56 (52=)
Teaching quality 72.6 101st
Student experience 63 126th
Research quality 46 47th
Ucas entry points 139 43rd=
Graduate prospects 59.3 130th
Firsts and 2:1s 75.4 83rd=
Completion rate 86.4 56th=
Student-staff ratio 11.9 7th

Vital statistics









Applications/places 26,270/4,510
Applications/places ratio 5.8:1
Overall offer rate 43.8%


Places in accommodation 3,281
Accommodation costs £154 - £454
Accommodation contact


UK/EU fees £9,250
Fees (placement year) £1,850
Fees (overseas year) £1,385
Fees (international) £20,940 - £23,610
Finance website
Graduate salaries £23,000


Sport points/rank 63, 111th
Sport website

Social inclusion and student mix

Social Inclusion Ranking 53
State schools (non-grammar) admissions 88.7%
Grammar school admissions 3.2%
Independent school admissions 8.1%
Ethnic minority students (all) 31.2%
Black achievement gap -20.5%
White working class males 4.2%
First generation students 37.6%
Low participation areas 7.5%
Working class dropout gap -0.3%
Mature 18.5%
EU students 14.1%
Other overseas students 35.2%

Student satisfaction with teaching quality

Computer science 80.8%
Communication and media studies 74.4%
Art and design 73.4%
Business, management and marketing 71.3%
Drama, dance and cinematics 69.2%
Architecture 66.7%