**Note: For the methodology to the 2016 edition of the QS Best Student Cities, click here.**
First published in 2012, the QS Best Student Cities is an index of the world’s top cities for students. For the 2014 edition, the methodology has been adapted slightly, with the addition of two new indicators: the GaWC Score and the iPad Index.
To qualify to be evaluated for inclusion in the QS Best Student Cities, a city must meet two pre-requisites. First, it must have a population of over 250,000. Second, it must be home to at least two universities featured in the QS World University Rankings®. Current calculations suggest that 98 cities in the world qualify on this basis.
The top 50 student cities are then selected based on 14 indicators divided into five equally weighted categories. In most cases the indicators are also weighted equally within each category; there are some exceptions where indicated.
Category 1: University Rankings
This category is intended to assess the collective performance of a city’s universities in the QS World University Rankings®. The indicators have been designed to take into account the magnetism of the large numbers of universities found in large cities, as well as lending recognition to the locations of the world’s elite institutions. All three indicators in this category carry equal weight.
This is a score based on the number of universities in the city that are assessed for a ranking position within the QS World University Rankings.
Indexed Score [x3]
This indicator takes into account the collective performance of all institutions in the city, based on the QS World University Rankings. Points are awarded for each institution depending on which range of the rankings they fall into:
This is a score based on the position of the highest-ranked institution from the city. So cities with at least one very high-ranking university benefit here.
Category 2: Student Mix
This category is designed to look at the city’s student community, both overall and from an international perspective. Cities where the population has a higher proportion of students are likely to be better equipped with the facilities students need. Cities with high numbers of international students are also more likely to have the facilities to welcome more.
The first indicator here is a simple score based on the number of students at ranked institutions, as a proportion of the city’s overall population.
International Volume [x2]
This is a score based on the total number of international students studying at ranked institutions in the city.
International Ratio [x2]
Finally, this category uses a score based on the total number of international students, as a proportion of all students studying at ranked institutions in the city.
Category 3: Quality of Living
The third category uses two indicators to give an idea of the quality of life offered by each city.
Mercer Quality of Living Survey [x3]
This is a score based on the results of the Mercer Quality of Living Survey 2011. Since Mercer only lists 50 cities, those not listed are automatically assigned a minimum of half the available points (ie. 50).
GaWC Score [x2]
This score is based on the GaWC index of global cities compiled at the University of Loughborough.
Category 4: Employer Activity
The fourth category uses two indicators to give an idea of which cities are viewed by employers as producing the best graduates, based on QS’s global survey of employers.
Domestic Employer Popularity
This score is based on the number of domestic employers who identified at least one institution in the city as producing excellent graduates.
International Employer Popularity [x4]
This score is based on the weighted count of international employers who identified at least one institution in the city as producing excellent graduates. Since QS’s work is focused on international students and opportunities for mobility, this indicator carries twice the weight of the domestic alternative.
Category 5: Affordability
The final category aims to give an overview of how expensive or affordable each city is for students, based on four indicators.
Tuition Fees [x2]
Tuition fees are often the most substantial cost for students, and particularly for international students. This score carries twice the weight of the other affordability indicators.
Big Mac Index
This score is based on the Big Mac Index, compiled and published by the Economist Intelligence Unit as a light-hearted guide to retail pricing in cities worldwide.
Similarly, this score is based on the recently launched iPad Index, compiled by Commsec.
Mercer Cost of Living Index
The final affordability indicator is the Mercer Cost of Living Index. This combines well with the above indicators to give a more rounded impression of the overall cost of living students can expect to incur. For example, in a city like Hong Kong, property is at a premium but food is inexpensive – so the city is ranked the world’s 9th most expensive city in the Mercer index but is the second cheapest country in the Big Mac Index.
Compilation of the Best Student Cities
Each indicator is converted into an ordinal by ranking the results and subtracting the rank of each result from the maximum. In some cases the underlying data is slightly reconfigured to ensure comparable application of weights (ie. tuition fee values are organized into ranges). The resulting scores are combined with the advertised weights and scaled to the top performing city in the category to give a score with a maximum of 100 for each category, which are then summed to produce the final score out of a theoretical maximum of 500.
The final table is presented based on an overall score out of 100 with rank, score, country and city names, and scores out of 100 in each of the five categories listed.
The QS Best Student Cities 2014 will be published on 20 November 2013.