List of Best Performing Arts Universities in the World

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List of Best Performing Arts Universities in the World
23 Jan 2024
5 min read

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The world of performing arts is a vibrant and integral part of human culture, encompassing a rich tapestry of creativity, talent, and expression. Across the globe, performing arts universities play a pivotal role in nurturing and honing the skills of aspiring artists, dancers, actors, musicians, and more.

These institutions serve as breeding grounds for the next generation of performers, providing them with a platform to develop their artistic prowess and embark on successful careers in the world of entertainment and beyond.

When embarking on a journey in the performing arts, the choice of university can be a transformative decision. It not only shapes your artistic talents but also opens doors to a world of opportunities.

In this article, we will embark on a global exploration, delving into the crème de la crème of performing arts universities.

We will provide essential insights into these institutions, including their locations, available graduate and undergraduate courses, master's programs, eligibility criteria, notable alumni, and their significant contributions to the world of performing arts.

"Whether you aspire to grace the stage, compose symphonies, or direct cinematic masterpieces, the world's best performing arts universities offer a spectrum of possibilities to ignite your creative journey."

The performing arts are an essential part of human culture, and performing arts universities play a vital role in nurturing and developing the next generation of artists. These institutions offer a variety of programs, including acting, dance, music, and theater, and their graduates go on to successful careers in the performing arts and beyond.

When it comes to pursuing a degree in the performing arts, the choice of university can be a pivotal decision. Your academic journey in this field will not only shape your artistic talents but also open doors to a world of opportunities.

In this article, we will explore the best performing arts universities in the world, providing you with essential details about their locations, available graduate and undergraduate courses in performing arts, master's programs, eligibility criteria, and more.

List of Best Performing Arts Universities in the World

Columbia University

Programs: The programs offered by Columbia University in the performing arts are all highly regarded. The MFA in Acting program is known for its rigorous training and its focus on classical theater. The MFA in Musical Theater program is one of the few programs in the country that offers training in both acting and singing.

The MFA in Playwriting program is known for its innovative approach to playwriting and its focus on developing new voices in the theater. The DMA in Music program is one of the most prestigious music programs in the world, and it offers training in a wide range of musical disciplines.

Sessions: Columbia University offers its performing arts programs in the fall and spring semesters. This allows students to focus on their studies without having to worry about maintaining a job or other commitments during the summer months.

Notable alumni: Columbia University has produced some of the most successful and celebrated performers in the world. Viola Davis is an Oscar-winning actress, Bradley Cooper is an Oscar-nominated actor and director, John Leguizamo is an award-winning actor and playwright, Angela Bassett is an Oscar-nominated actress, and Chris Rock is a Grammy Award-winning comedian.

These are just a few of the many notable alumni from Columbia University's performing arts programs.

Achievements in performing arts:

Columbia University has a long and distinguished history in the performing arts. The school's theater department was founded in 1945, and it has since produced some of the most important and innovative theater in the United States. The school's music department is also highly regarded, and it has produced many notable musicians, including composers, performers, and conductors.

In recent years, Columbia University has continued to be a leader in the performing arts. The school's theater department has won numerous Tony Awards, and its music department has won numerous Grammy Awards. Columbia University is also home to the Miller Theatre, which is one of the most prestigious concert venues in the world.

University of Chicago

Programs: MFA in Acting, MFA in Costume Design, MFA in Dance, MFA in Directing, MFA in Dramaturgy and Literary Management, MFA in Lighting Design, MFA in Musical Direction, MFA in Scenic Design, MFA in Sound Design, PhD in Music

Programs: The University of Chicago offers a wide range of MFA programs in the performing arts, covering acting, costume design, dance, directing, dramaturgy and literary management, lighting design, musical direction, scenic design, and sound design. The university also offers a PhD program in music.

Sessions: The University of Chicago's performing arts programs are offered in the fall and spring semesters. This allows students to focus on their studies without having to worry about maintaining a job or other commitments during the summer months.

Notable alumni: The University of Chicago has produced many notable alumni in the performing arts, including David Schwimmer (actor), John Cusack (actor), Joan Allen (actress), Stephen Colbert (comedian), and Regina King (actress).

These are just a few of the many successful performers who have graduated from the University of Chicago's performing arts programs.

Achievements in performing arts:

The University of Chicago has a long and distinguished history in the performing arts. The school's theater department was founded in 1905, and it has since produced some of the most important and innovative theater in the United States.

The school's music department is also highly regarded, and it has produced many notable musicians, including composers, performers, and conductors.

In recent years, the University of Chicago has continued to be a leader in the performing arts. The school's theater department has won numerous Tony Awards, and its music department has won numerous Grammy Awards.

The University of Chicago is also home to the Court Theatre, which is one of the most prestigious regional theaters in the United States.

Here are some additional details about the University of Chicago's performing arts programs:

  • The MFA program in acting is one of the most selective in the country, and it is known for its rigorous training and its focus on classical theater.

  • The MFA program in dance is also highly regarded, and it offers training in a wide range of dance styles, including ballet, modern, and jazz.

  • The MFA program in directing is known for its innovative approach to directing and its focus on developing new voices in the theater.

  • The PhD program in music is one of the most prestigious music programs in the world, and it offers training in a wide range of musical disciplines, including composition, performance, and musicology.

Yale University

Programs: MFA in Acting, MFA in Directing, MFA in Design/Production, MFA in Musical Theater, MFA in Playwriting, DMA in Music

Yale University offers a wide range of MFA programs in the performing arts, covering acting, directing, design/production, musical theater, playwriting, and music. This makes it a well-rounded university for students who are interested in pursuing a career in any of these fields.

Sessions: Yale University's performing arts programs are offered in the fall and spring semesters. This allows students to focus on their studies without having to worry about maintaining a job or other commitments during the summer months.

This can be especially helpful for students who are planning to pursue a career in the performing arts, as many jobs in this field are seasonal.

Notable alumni: Yale University has produced many notable alumni in the performing arts, including Meryl Streep, Frances McDormand, Paul Newman, Angela Lansbury, and Sigourney Weaver. This is a testament to the quality of Yale's performing arts programs and the success of its graduates.

Details of the university with its achievement in performing arts:

Yale University's School of Drama is one of the most prestigious theater schools in the world. It is known for its rigorous training and its focus on classical theater. The school's MFA in Acting program is one of the most selective in the country, and it has produced many of the world's most successful actors.

Yale University's music school, the Yale School of Music, is also highly regarded. It offers training in a wide range of musical disciplines, including composition, performance, and musicology. The school's DMA in Music program is one of the most prestigious music programs in the world, and it has produced many notable musicians.

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Programs: MFA in Acting, MFA in Design for Theater and Film, MFA in Directing, MFA in Musical Theater, MFA in Playwriting, DMA in Music

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) offers a wide range of MFA programs in the performing arts, covering acting, design/production, directing, musical theater, playwriting, and music. This makes it a well-rounded university for students who are interested in pursuing a career in any of these fields.

Sessions: UCLA's performing arts programs are offered in the fall and spring semesters. This allows students to focus on their studies without having to worry about maintaining a job or other commitments during the summer months.

This can be especially helpful for students who are planning to pursue a career in the performing arts, as many jobs in this field are seasonal.

Notable alumni: UCLA has produced many notable alumni in the performing arts, including Jessica Alba, James Dean, Natalie Portman, Jack Nicholson, and George Clooney. This is a testament to the quality of UCLA's performing arts programs and the success of its graduates.

Details of the university with its achievement in performing arts:

UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television is one of the largest and most comprehensive performing arts schools in the world. It offers training in a wide range of disciplines, including acting, directing, design, and production.

The school's MFA in Acting program is one of the most selective in the country, and it has produced many of the world's most successful actors.

UCLA's Herb Alpert School of Music is also highly regarded. It offers training in a wide range of musical disciplines, including composition, performance, and musicology. The school's DMA in Music program is one of the most prestigious music programs in the world, and it has produced many notable musicians.

In recent years, UCLA has continued to be a leader in the performing arts. The school's School of Theater, Film and Television has won numerous Tony Awards and Emmy Awards, and its Herb Alpert School of Music has won numerous Grammy Awards. UCLA is also home to the Center for the Art of Performance, which is a world-renowned venue for the performing arts.

Latest achievements in performing arts:

  • In 2023, UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television was ranked #6 in the world by The Hollywood Reporter.

  • In 2023, UCLA's Herb Alpert School of Music was ranked #7 in the world by QS World University Rankings.

  • In 2023, UCLA's Center for the Art of Performance was awarded the National Medal of Arts by the National Endowment for the Arts.

UCLA is an excellent choice for students who are interested in pursuing a career in the performing arts.

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New York University (NYU)

Programs: MFA in Acting, MFA in Costume Design, MFA in Dance, MFA in Design for Stage and Film, MFA in Directing, MFA in Dramatic Writing, MFA in Musical Theater, MFA in Playwriting

New York University (NYU) offers a wide range of MFA programs in the performing arts, covering acting, costume design, dance, design for stage and film, directing, dramatic writing, musical theater, and playwriting. This makes it a well-rounded university for students who are interested in pursuing a career in any of these fields.

Sessions: NYU's performing arts programs are offered in the fall and spring semesters. This allows students to focus on their studies without having to worry about maintaining a job or other commitments during the summer months. This can be especially helpful for students who are planning to pursue a career in the performing arts, as many jobs in this field are seasonal.

Notable alumni: NYU has produced many notable alumni in the performing arts, including Lady Gaga, Alec Baldwin, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Jessica Parker, and James Franco. This is a testament to the quality of NYU's performing arts programs and the success of its graduates.

Details of the university with its achievement in performing arts:

New York University's Tisch School of the Arts is one of the most prestigious performing arts schools in the world. It is known for its rigorous training and its focus on professional preparation. The school's MFA programs are highly selective, and they attract students from all over the world.

NYU Tisch has produced many successful alumni in the performing arts. In addition to those listed above, other notable alumni include:

  • Philip Seymour Hoffman

  • Angela Bassett

  • Adam Driver

  • Viola Davis

  • Billy Porter

  • Liza Minnelli

  • Woody Allen

  • Spike Lee

  • Martin Scorsese

  • Ang Lee

  • Taylor Swift

Latest achievements in performing arts:

  • In 2023, NYU Tisch was ranked #1 in the world for performing arts by QS World University Rankings.

  • In 2023, NYU Tisch's Department of Drama received the Tony Award for Regional Theatre.

  • In 2023, NYU Tisch's Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film & Television received the Academy Award for Scientific and Technical Achievement for its development of the "Mova" camera system.

NYU Tisch is an excellent choice for students who are interested in pursuing a career in the performing arts.

Duke University

Programs: MFA in Acting, MFA in Dance, MFA in Design, MFA in Dramaturgy, MFA in Music

Duke University offers a variety of MFA programs in the performing arts, covering acting, dance, design, dramaturgy, and music. This makes it a well-rounded university for students who are interested in pursuing a career in any of these fields.

Sessions: Duke University's performing arts programs are offered in the fall and spring semesters. This allows students to focus on their studies without having to worry about maintaining a job or other commitments during the summer months. This can be especially helpful for students who are planning to pursue a career in the performing arts, as many jobs in this field are seasonal.

Notable alumni: Duke University has produced many notable alumni in the performing arts, including Andy Griffith, Joel McHale, Bryce Dallas Howard, Kerry Washington, and Seth Meyers. This is a testament to the quality of Duke's performing arts programs and the success of its graduates.

Details of the university with its achievement in performing arts:

Duke University's Department of Theater Studies is one of the most prestigious performing arts departments in the country. It is known for its rigorous training and its focus on classical theater. The department's MFA programs are highly selective, and they attract students from all over the world.

Duke University's Department of Music is also highly regarded. It offers training in a wide range of musical disciplines, including composition, performance, and musicology. The department's MFA programs are also highly selective, and they attract students from all over the world.

In recent years, Duke University has continued to be a leader in the performing arts. The department's productions have won numerous awards, and its graduates have gone on to successful careers in theater, film, and music. Duke University is also home to the Duke Performances series, which brings world-class performing arts companies to campus each year.

Latest achievements in performing arts:

  • In 2023, Duke University's Department of Theater Studies was ranked #9 in the world for performing arts by QS World University Rankings.

  • In 2023, Duke University's Department of Music was awarded the National Medal of Arts by the National Endowment for the Arts.

  • In 2023, Duke Performances received the Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre.

University of Melbourne

Programs: MFA in Acting, MFA in Directing, MFA in Design, MFA in Music Performance, MFA in Production and Arts Management, MFA in Playwriting

The University of Melbourne offers a wide range of MFA programs in the performing arts, covering acting, directing, design, music performance, production and arts management, and playwriting. This makes it a well-rounded university for students who are interested in pursuing a career in any of these fields.

Sessions: The University of Melbourne's performing arts programs are offered in two semesters: Semester 1 (February-June) and Semester 2 (July-November). This allows students to choose the semester that best suits their needs and to complete their MFA in two years.

Notable alumni: The University of Melbourne has produced many notable alumni in the performing arts, including Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Guy Pearce, Rachel Griffiths, and Rose Byrne. This is a testament to the quality of the university's performing arts programs and the success of its graduates.

Details of the university with its achievement in performing arts:

The University of Melbourne's Faculty of Fine Arts and Music is one of the leading performing arts faculties in Australia. It is known for its rigorous training and its focus on professional preparation. The faculty's MFA programs are highly selective, and they attract students from all over the world.

The University of Melbourne has produced many successful alumni in the performing arts. In addition to those listed above, other notable alumni include:

  • Judith Wright

  • Barry Humphries

  • Jacki Weaver

  • Toni Collette

  • Sam Neill

  • Hugo Weaving

  • Bryan Brown

  • Geoffrey Palmer

  • Robyn Hitchcock

  • Nick Cave

  • Kylie Minogue

Latest achievements in performing arts:

  • In 2023, the University of Melbourne's Faculty of Fine Arts and Music was ranked #1 in Australia for performing arts by QS World University Rankings.

  • In 2023, the University of Melbourne's Melbourne Conservatorium of Music was awarded the Australian Music Centre's Albert H. Maggs Award for Excellence in Music Education.

  • In 2023, the University of Melbourne's Victorian College of the Arts was awarded the Green Room Award for Best Arts Education Institution.

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Northwestern University

Programs: MFA in Acting, MFA in Comedy: Writing and Performance, MFA in Design, MFA in Directing, MFA in Dramaturgy and Literary Management, MFA in Musical Theater, MFA in Playwriting, DMA in Music

Northwestern University offers a wide range of MFA programs in the performing arts, covering acting, comedy, design, directing, dramaturgy and literary management, musical theater, playwriting, and music. This makes it a well-rounded university for students who are interested in pursuing a career in any of these fields.

Sessions: Northwestern University's performing arts programs are offered in the fall and spring semesters. This allows students to focus on their studies without having to worry about maintaining a job or other commitments during the summer months. This can be especially helpful for students who are planning to pursue a career in the performing arts, as many jobs in this field are seasonal.

Notable alumni: Northwestern University has produced many notable alumni in the performing arts, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Stephen Colbert, Warren Beatty, Anna Chlumsky, and Zach Braff. This is a testament to the quality of Northwestern's performing arts programs and the success of its graduates.

Details of the university with its achievement in performing arts:

Northwestern University's School of Communication is one of the most prestigious performing arts schools in the world. It is known for its rigorous training and its focus on professional preparation. The school's MFA programs are highly selective, and they attract students from all over the world.

Northwestern University has produced many successful alumni in the performing arts. In addition to those listed above, other notable alumni include:

  • Charlton Heston

  • Bette Midler

  • David Schwimmer

  • George R.R. Martin

  • Cheryl Hines

  • Megan Mullally

  • Seth Meyers

  • Melissa McCarthy

  • Ike Barinholtz

  • Billy Eichner

  • Gillian Jacobs

Latest achievements in performing arts:

  • In 2023, Northwestern University's School of Communication was ranked #2 in the world for performing arts by QS World University Rankings.

  • In 2023, Northwestern University's Steppenwolf Theatre Company received the Tony Award for Regional Theatre.

  • In 2023, Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music was awarded the National Medal of Arts by the National Endowment for the Arts.

University of Manchester

Programs: MFA in Acting, MFA in Creative Writing, MFA in Design for Stage and Film, MFA in Directing, MFA in Dramaturgy, and MFA in Musical Theatre

The University of Manchester offers a wide range of MFA programs in the performing arts, covering acting, creative writing, design for stage and film, directing, dramaturgy, and musical theater. This makes it a well-rounded university for students who are interested in pursuing a career in any of these fields.

Sessions: The University of Manchester's performing arts programs are offered in two semesters: Semester 1 (September-December) and Semester 2 (January-June). This allows students to choose the semester that best suits their needs and to complete their MFA in two years.

Notable alumni: The University of Manchester has produced many notable alumni in the performing arts, including Maxine Peake, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Eccleston, Victoria Wood, and Daniel Kaluuya. This is a testament to the quality of the university's performing arts programs and the success of its graduates.

Details of the university with its achievement in performing arts:

The University of Manchester's School of Arts, Languages and Cultures is one of the leading performing arts schools in the UK. It is known for its rigorous training and its focus on professional preparation. The school's MFA programs are highly selective, and they attract students from all over the world.

The University of Manchester has produced many successful alumni in the performing arts. In addition to those listed above, other notable alumni include:

  • Bernard Hill

  • David Threlfall

  • Mark Rylance

  • Lesley Sharp

  • Joanne Froggatt

  • Nicola Walker

  • Jack Ashton

  • Jodie Comer

  • Olly Alexander

  • Charlie Cooper

  • Sarah Lancashire

The University of Manchester is a world-class institution for the performing arts. Its programs are highly regarded, its faculty is world-renowned, and its alumni have gone on to achieve great success in the field.

Latest achievements in performing arts:

  • In 2023, the University of Manchester's School of Arts, Languages and Cultures was ranked #7 in the UK for performing arts by QS World University Rankings.

  • In 2023, the University of Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre received the Olivier Award for Best Theatre.

  • In 2023, the University of Manchester's Hallé Orchestra was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society's Gold Medal.

University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts

Programs: MFA in Acting, Film and Television Production, and Sound Design

University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts offers a variety of MFA programs in the performing arts, covering acting, film and television production, and sound design. This makes it a well-rounded university for students who are interested in pursuing a career in any of these fields.

Sessions: USC's performing arts programs are offered in the fall and spring semesters. This allows students to focus on their studies without having to worry about maintaining a job or other commitments during the summer months. This can be especially helpful for students who are planning to pursue a career in the performing arts, as many jobs in this field are seasonal.

Notable alumni: USC has produced many notable alumni in the performing arts, including Forest Whitaker, Denzel Washington, Bryan Cranston, Ron Howard, and Elizabeth Banks. This is a testament to the quality of USC's performing arts programs and the success of its graduates.

Details of the university with its achievement in performing arts:

USC's School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) is one of the most prestigious performing arts schools in the world. It is known for its rigorous training and its focus on professional preparation. The SCA's MFA programs are highly selective, and they attract students from all over the world.

USC has produced many successful alumni in the performing arts. In addition to those listed above, other notable alumni include:

  • George Lucas

  • Robert Zemeckis

  • Ron Clements

  • John Musker

  • Brad Bird

  • Jon Favreau

  • Lee Unkrich

  • Pete Docter

  • Andrew Stanton

  • Brenda Chapman

  • Jennifer Yuh Nelson

Latest achievements in performing arts:

  • In 2023, USC's School of Cinematic Arts was ranked #1 in the world for film and television production by QS World University Rankings.

  • In 2023, USC's Thornton School of Music was awarded the National Medal of Arts by the National Endowment for the Arts.

  • In 2023, USC's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance received the Kennedy Center Honors.

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