Following the launch of the QS Best Student Cities 2015, here are 15 of the best places to study abroad in 2015. Take your pick from these nerve centers of the world’s academia, culture, nightlife and commerce – all packed with plenty to stimulate your brain cells, social sensors, taste buds, cultural connoisseurship and adventurous impulses. From croissants to crumpets, snow sports to sea views and art galleries to beer festivals, there’s something here for everyone, including a good choice of internationally ranked universities.
Holding onto the top spot of the QS Best Student Cities index for the third year running, the French capital combines iconic architecture and one of the world’s most-coveted and admired cultural heritages with a highly impressive selection of internationally ranked universities. Its reputation among graduate recruiters rivals even its status among romantics, while low tuition fees go at least some way towards offsetting relatively high living costs.
A perfect score for “student mix” propels Australia’s second largest city to the runner-up spot in this year’s QS Best Student Cities, reflecting its large, diverse and inclusive student community. The nation’s “cultural capital”, Melbourne has plenty to offer all lovers of beach life, nightlife, comedy and live music, plus seven internationally ranked universities to choose from.
It’s impossible to beat the UK capital when it comes to sheer quantity of universities ranked among the world’s best; London has 19 representatives in the QS World University Rankings, including two institutions currently in the global top five. Then there are all the galleries, gigs, restaurants and clubs you could ever want, plus surprisingly expansive green spaces and a hipster culture to rival even New York.
An iconic harbor and opera house, beaches among the most beautiful in the world, and – the QS Best Student Cities index reveals – an excellent reputation among graduate employers into the bargain. Australia’s most populous, most multicultural and most recognizable city is home to five internationally ranked universities.
5. Hong Kong
One of the world’s most densely populated areas, Hong also boasts one of the planet’s most impressive concentrations of internationally ranked universities, with seven representatives in the QS World University Rankings. This is city life in the fast lane, with a side helping of stunning sea views and a rich mixture of local traditions and international outlook.
Pursue your own “American dream” in the heart of New England, where Boston combines beauty and brains. In close proximity to two of the most famous universities on the planet (MIT and Harvard), the “Athens of America” is known for its history of intellectual pursuit, while behind its sea-front skyscraper skyline you’ll find pretty tree-lined avenues in which to enjoy the region’s famous Fall colors.
Want to study abroad in a REALLY big city? They don’t come much bigger, busier or buzzier than the Japanese capital, known for taking the phrase “bright lights” to a whole new level of neon. From karaoke to tea ceremonies, Tokyo is packed with opportunities to explore traditional and contemporary Japanese culture – and did I mention it’s home to no less than 10 internationally ranked universities?
Multi-lingual, multicultural, and a more affordable study destination than most of the other top 10 student cities this year, Montréal is home to the prestigious McGill University, currently ranked 21st in the QS World University Rankings. Annual highlights include the Montréal International Jazz Festival and the world's largest comedy festival, Just for Laughs – just a few spikes in the city’s jam-packed cultural calendar.
A close rival to Montréal in all respects (including the “cultural capital” accolade),Canada’s largest city and leading financial center boasts booming arts, fashion, creative and foodie scenes, and claims the strongest score in the “desirability” category of the QS Best Student Cities index. Like Montréal, it’s home to three internationally ranked universities, with the University of Toronto currently one place above McGill in the world rankings.
Having been “up and coming” for some time, Seoul is now a firm fixture among Asia’s most happening destinations. Very much a 24/7 kind of city, the South Korean capital is known for its infectious energy and non-stop activity, its combination of grand palaces and towering skyscrapers, and as the center of the K-pop scene which has redefined the phrase “go viral”. Prospective students may be interested to know it’s also home to 14 internationally ranked universities.
Famed for being prosperous and immaculately kept, Switzerland’s largest city has a lot more vivacity and diversity to it than you might expect – from art galleries to street art, and from a creative cabaret scene to the world’s biggest annual outdoor dance party. Meanwhile Zürich’s natural backdrop – stunning views of the Alps and the lake which shares the city’s name – is hard to beat, as is the global ranking of its leading university, ETH Zurich (currently 12th).
Combining coast, mountains and city life, Canada’s third representative in the QS Best Student Cities index pretty much has it all – including a university in the global top 50. The University of British Colombia (UBC)’s campus is impressively green and coastal, while Simon Fraser University is based in the middle of the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area, about 20km outside the city. Both are likely to appeal to snow sports lovers, thanks to the proximity of the famous Whistler Blackcomb resort.
13. San Francisco
Within striking distance of Silicon Valley, San Francisco blends a culture of cutting-edge innovation with a heritage of laid-back beach life and bohemianism. The home of “hippie” counterculture and liberal activism is also one of the world’s leading financial centers, most-visited and most-filmed cities, and most desirable places for ambitious young graduates to live. Stanford University (ranked 7th in the world) and the University of California, Berkeley (27th) are both within the Bay Area.
Home of the renowned Oktoberfest, Germany’s third-largest city boasts the highest “affordability” score in the top 15 – largely thanks to the absence of tuition fees at German universities. With two internationally ranked universities (one just outside the global top 50), Munich offers opportunities to explore traditional Bavarian culture, alongside life in a highly developed, high-tech and high-brow metropolis.
This densely populated and prosperous “Asian Tiger” is a high achiever in all areas – including higher education. Its two leading universities are now both within the global top 40; the National University of Singapore is 22nd, and the young but fast-climbing Nanyang Technological University 39th. Singapore is clean-cut, corporate and competitive, yes, but also multicultural, colorful and full of surprises.
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