Boston is certainly one of the world’s best-known academic hubs, and in the QS Best Student Cities 2015 it ranks as the world’s sixth best city for students, moving up two places from the previous year.
Boston’s leading position is bolstered by universities located within the Greater Boston area, in the neighboring town of Cambridge – of which the most famous are MIT and Harvard University, consistently ranked among the top five universities in the world. In the QS World University Rankings® 2014/15, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) held onto its place as the world’s number one university, while Ivy League member Harvard University remains just slightly behind in 4th.
While these two institutions have no shortage of attractions of their own, the proximity of Boston certainly doesn’t take away from their appeal. As one of the most historic cities in the US, Boston combines the hustle and bustle of a major metropolis and a happening arts, politics and culture scene, with an abundance of green open space and the stunning fall colors for which Massachusetts and the region of New England are famous. In addition to the academic might of MIT and Harvard, Boston is home to five more internationally ranked universities, a cluster of intellectual endeavor which has earned it the nickname “the Athens of America”.
Thanks in part to the two showstoppers, MIT and Harvard, Boston has a great score in the “university rankings” category of this year’s Best Student Cities index. It’s also tied with London as one of the two top-scorers in the “employer activity” category, reflecting the strong international reputation of its institutions among graduate employers.
The city’s weakest score, predictably, is for affordability, with fees at top US universities exceeding US$40,000 per year. But in fact both MIT and Harvard operate need-blind admission policies for all applicants, including international students, and generous financial aid packages mean Boston’s universities may not be as out-of-reach as they at first appear.
QS ranked universities
More about Boston
Number of universities ranked by QS
Top ranked institution
MIT (1st in the world)
Students (% of total population)
2.3% (based on ranked institutions)
21.0% (of students at ranked institutions)
Average tuition fees
Global Liveability Ranking
40th (out of 140)
Mercer Cost of Living rank
109th (out of 214)
Cost of a Big Mac
Cost of an iPad
Numbeo safety rank
178th (out of 372)
Numbeo pollution rank
249th (out of 299)
Transparency International score
19th (out of 177)
Sources: QS World University Rankings; Global Liveability Ranking (The Economist’s Intelligence Unit); Big Mac Index (The Economist’s Intelligence Unit); iPad Index (Commsec); Cost of Living Survey (Mercer);Corruption Perceptions Index (Transparency International).