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10 Best Universities and Colleges for Graphic Design in Scotland for 2023

Looking to become a graphic designer in Edinburgh, Glasgow or elsewhere in Scotland? From its incredible urban centres—Edinburgh and Glasgow being the most famous, but don’t also forget Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness—to its unforgettable glens, bens and lochs, there’s a whole lot to be discovered. With all that on your doorstep combined with some top places to study graphic design, the country is a great choice to study graphic design.

We’re going to take you through 11 top-notch graphic design colleges and universities across Scotland, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, to help you make the best decision to start your graphic design career.

1. Shillington Education

Location: Online (including an UK time zone option—perfect for students in Scotland)

Course Duration: 9 months

Shillington’s graphic design bootcamp was founded in Sydney, Australia in 1997 and has been providing high quality graphic design education ever since. Shillington’s online graphic design course is unlike any other. Over three nights a week for nine months, Shillington’s dedicated, experienced teachers (who are also working graphic designers!) guide you through Shillington’s unique course in real time. With Shillington’s online graphic design course, you’ll learn all the essential skills and programs—Adobe InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop and Figma—used by graphic designers, as well as an in depth understanding of how to work as a designer, in l online studios that perfectly replicate a working studio environment. 

Shillington online students graduate as talented, well-rounded graphic designers ready to work in a design studio or take on the world of freelance graphic design. What’s best is that the Shillington online graphic design course is offered live in four different time zones—UK (GMT/BST), US East Coast (EST), US West Coast (PST) and Australian East Coast (AEST)—with the UK or Australian East Coast (if you want to study in the morning) offerings ideal for budding designers in Scotland!

2. Glasgow School of Art

Location: Central Glasgow

Course Duration: 3 years

Founded in 1845, Glasgow School of Art (GSA) is housed in a building in Central Glasgow designed by Glaswegian designer and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh—an icon of the Modern Style (also known as British Art Nouveau). GSA’s School of Design, which offers a degree in Communication Design, is highly regarded and has been described as “leaders in design education”. Unsurprisingly, this makes GSA one of the best universities for graphic design in Glasgow and one of the best universities for graphic design in Scotland.

GSA’s Communication Design degree starts with an overview of design history and different practices involved in the history of design, and how they reflected social, cultural and political contexts. GSA students are then able to choose an area of specification—graphic design, illustration and photography. As they develop their practice, they’re encouraged to use their own skills from the other two disciplines or collaborate with their fellow students who are working in those disciplines.

3. Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh

Location: Edinburgh Old Town

Course Duration: 4 years

The University of Edinburgh is the sixth oldest university in the English-speaking world, initially founded by royal charter in 1583. Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) is the arm of the main university that teaches art and design, architecture, history of art and music, itself founded over 260 years ago in 1760. Though Edinburgh is one of the biggest universities in the UK, the College of Art is relatively small with only around 3,300 students. One degree offered by the ECA is a four year BA in graphic design.

The graphic design degree at the ECA teaches students to develop their own design processes that are, in the university’s words, innovative, emotive, enduring and aesthetic. The first year of the BA sees students cover the conceptual, theoretical and historical side of design, before building on this in the following three years. The third year is also a compulsory year of working in the industry—allowing ECA students invaluable work experience before finishing up their studies. All this makes ECA one of the best universities for graphic design in Scotland. 

4. University of Dundee

Location: Dundee City

Course Duration: 3 years

Located in Dundee, Western Scotland, the University of Dundee (UOD) was established in 1881 with a donation from the textile manufacturers, the Baxter family. Home to over 16,000 students, UOD is broken down into ten different schools, including the School of Art and Design. Breaking it down further, The School of Art and Design contains the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design (DJCAD). One of the best graphic design schools in Scotland, DJCAD offers its students a BDes (Bachelor of Design) in graphic design. 

DJCAD’s graphic design degree makes Dundee one of the best universities for graphic design in Scotland. DJCAD offers its students the chance to develop their skills with a range of industry-focused design projects, set by their own tutors, external agencies and international design bodies. Students have their own desk in a dedicated graphic design studio, where they’re encouraged to work independently around the college’s small group teaching.

5. Heriot-Watt University

Location: Galashiels (Scottish Borders)

Course Duration: 3 years

Heriot-Watt University is a public university with three campuses in Scotland: Edinburgh, Orkney and Galashiels in the Scottish Borders. Initially established in 1821 as the School of the Arts Edinburgh, it was granted university status and its current name in 1966. The Scottish Borders campus, itself founded in 1883 before merging with Heriot-Watt in 1998, is home to the university’s School of Textiles and Design. It’s here we can find their BA (Hons) degree in Communication Design, another name for graphic design. 

As one of the best graphic design courses in Scotland, Heriot-Watt’s communication design course is built around four key areas: graphic design (including illustration), moving image and animation, photography and interaction design or UI/UX design. The aim of the course is to prepare Heriot-Watt students for a new type of world—using different design disciplines within the new career that the cause leads to. 

6. Glasgow Caledonian University

Location: Glasgow

Course Duration: 4 years

Founded in 1993 from the merger of Glasgow Polytechnic and The Queen’s College, Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) is a public university in the city centre. Within its three academic schools, GCU offers an intriguing route for people wanting to study graphic design in Scotland. The university offers a two year direct entry Digital Design course that students can join in their third year of study. This program makes GCU one of the top graphic design universities in Scotland. 

Students on GCU’s Digital Design course will earn a BSc (Bachelor of Science) Honours degree after they successfully complete and graduate. Whilst on the course, students learn a variety of different technological skills and user-centred design thinking so they are able to create a range of design solutions, including websites, motion graphics and apps. GCU graduates have gone on to become graphic designers, digital designers, social media designers and more. 

7. Edinburgh Napier University

Location: Merchiston, Edinburgh

Course Duration: 4 years

Edinburgh Napier University (ENU or Napier) was founded as Napier Technical College in 1964 before being inaugurated as a university just over 20 years ago in 1992. Napier is based in three campuses around the city of Edinburgh: the Sighthill Campus, the Craiglockhart Campus and the Merchiston Campus. The latter, which is built around the family home of the university’s namesake John Napier Merchiston Castle, houses the university’s Schools of Art & Creative Industries. It’s this school that makes Napier one of the best universities for graphic design in Scotland, offering a full-time, undergraduate BDes (Bachelor of Design) Honours degree in graphic design. 

Napier’s graphic design degree program aims to give its students the proper tools and knowledge to become a professional graphic designer, including the conceptual and critical thinking skills required to design properly. Napier students work on live projects, hear from visiting industry lecturers and have the opportunity to undertake industry work experience during their studies. In the fourth and final year of the course, students devise and work on a final major project.

8. Glasgow Clyde College 

Location: South Side, Glasgow

Course Duration: 2-4 years

Founded through the merger of three colleges, Anniesland College, Cardonald College and Langside College, in 2013, Glasgow Clyde College (GCC) is a further and higher education college with campuses across the city. GCC offers a range of creative courses including, as the Cardonald Campus, a BA (Bachelor of Arts) and HND (Higher National Diploma) in graphic design—the BA is available to students who have already completed the HND course.

As one of the best colleges for graphic design in Glasgow, GCC offers its students two different routes into a graphic design career. Graphic design HND students, across their two year course, build a great foundation in graphic design and learn what it takes to become a graphic designer through creative briefs, workshops, demos and learning relevant creative skills. Students who graduate from the HND course can then go on to study on GCC’s BA graphic design course, which builds on their existing skills. GCC BA students develop their own online portfolio and blog, whilst working in a professional design practice and on self-directed projects.   

9. Forth Valley College

Location: Falkirk and Stirling

Course Duration: 3 months

Forth Valley College (FVC) is a further education college founded in 2005. The college has three main campuses in the towns of Falkirk and Alloa and the city of Stirling. The Alloa campus was the first to open in 2011, followed by the Stirling campus a year later and a new campus in Falkirk opening in 2020 in a building that was nominated for the Stirling prize for excellence in architecture. One of the best graphic design colleges in Scotland, the Stirling and Falkirk campuses both offer an evening course called ‘Introduction to Graphic Design’.

FVC’s introductory course, which is run on Tuesday evenings in Stirling and Thursday evenings in Falkirk, allows students to learn the basics of graphic design and the essential programs of the Adobe Creative Cloud. Forth Valley College graphic design students are taught the skills they need to start a design project, as well as the invaluable fundamentals of layout, colour, illustration and typography. Students also work on real life projects during the course, including logo design and poster design.

10. Dumfries & Galloway College

Location: Dumfries

Course Duration: 3 years

Established in 1961, Dumfries & Galloway College (DGC) is a further education college based in the region of Dumfries & Galloway. DGC is home to around 4,500 students a year across its two campuses in Stranraer and Dumfries itself. The college, which is one of the biggest in the south of Scotland, offers a huge range of courses in different disciplines. One of these is a certificate in Visual Communication (Graphic Design with Moving Image) offered at level six of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF)—the equivalent of a National Certificate or modern apprenticeship.

One of the best colleges for graphic design in Scotland, the DGC visual communication curriculum combines the development of creative and innovative thinking and technological skills. Students develop skills across digital and traditional media which makes the course the perfect launching pad for further graphic design education or work in the graphic design industry. DGC graduates have gone on to become graphic designers, freelance graphic designers, print specialists, magazine directors and more. 

Learn more about the Shillington Graphic Design Course now or chat to one of our dedicated Course Advisors to hear more about studying with us. 

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