What makes a good student city? You might think it’s all to do with the people, or perhaps the academic resources. Maybe your top priority is the nightlife, or then again you might just want cheap rent and affordable living costs!
The QS Best Student Cities index assesses cities based on 14 criteria, covering five key categories: University Rankings, Student Mix, Quality of Living, Employer Activity and Affordability. Each city receives a score out of 100 in each category, adding up to an overall ranking of the world’s best cities for students.
The findings show that not all great student cities are winners at everything; in particular, many (though not all) of the world’s leading academic and cultural hubs stumble on the ‘affordability’ indicator. But when all the factors are combined, here’s how the overall top 10 student cities look this year...
1st - Paris
In its second year at the top spot, the French capital offers an overwhelming 17 universities ranked by QS – just one less than London, the city with the most. Although Paris is a notoriously expensive place to live, this is counterbalanced by relatively low tuition costs, high quality of life, and a thriving student community. Paris also scores especially well for Employer Activity, indicating that graduates of the city’s universities are in high demand among both local and international recruiters. Its top university is the Ecolé Normale Supérieure (ENS), ranked 28th in the QS World University Rankings® and located in the cultural and educational hub of the Quartier Latin.
2nd - London
Runner up for the second time, the UK capital retains the strongest score in the Rankings category of the index, with a total of 18 ranked institutions, including two within the world’s top 10. London also scores very well for Employer Activity and Student Mix (a measure of the relative size and diversity of the student population), but is let down in the Affordability indicator. It also ranks less well for Quality of Living than the other top five cities. Despite this, London remains one of the world’s most popular student cities, offering an impressive range of world-leading educational facilities within a buzzing hub of culture, nightlife and international diversity. Its top ranking university is UCL, ranked 4th in the world.
3rd - Singapore
Rising nine places since the last edition of the Best Student Cities index, Singapore has a growing reputation as one of the world’s greatest student cities, despite being home to only two ranked universities – the minimum requirement for inclusion. Small and densely populated, Singapore is highly international, with foreigners making up over 42% of its population. It scores top marks for Employer Activity, with recruiters from around the world targeting its institutions, and also ranks well for Quality of Living. Its top university, the National University of Singapore (NUS), is ranked at 24th in the world.
4th - Sydney
Outdoing itself by two places this year; Sydney now sits just in front of its fellow Australian city, Melbourne, as the country’s top student city. Perhaps best known for its cityscape along the harbor, the iconic Sydney opera house and the nearby beaches, Sydney gains almost top marks for Quality of Living and scores highly in all other categories except Affordability. The average tuition costs are higher than those in London, though still lower than those paid out in many US cities. Out of the city’s five ranked institutions, the University of Sydney is the leader, ranked at 38th in the world.
5th - Melbourne
Falling one place this year to make way for Sydney, Melbourne offers seven ranked universities. Despite slipping slightly, Melbourne is almost level-pegged with Sydney in every category, but loses out due to a slightly lower Quality of Living score (although still higher than either Paris or London). Known as Australia’s cultural capital, Melbourne gets the highest score Student Mix in the index, and, similar to the other Australian cities, boasts the attractions of fine weather, many beaches and good nightlife. The city’s leading institution is the University of Melbourne which is ranked 31st in the world, the second highest-ranked university in Australia.
6th - Zurich
The largest city in Switzerland, Zurich is placed joint 5th with Melbourne this year, moving up two places since the index was last published. The city scores almost top marks for Quality of Living, for which it is well known, offering excellent infrastructure, low crime rate and close proximity to some of the most beautiful scenery in this part of the world. Earning the best score in the top five for Affordability, Zurich combines high living expenses with relatively low tuition fees. It may only have two ranked universities, but they’re both within the global top 100 – and in fact ETH Zurich, ranked 12th in the world, is the highest ranked university outside of the US or UK.
7th - Hong Kong
The second best student city in Asia, Hong Kong ranks 7th this year, rising a dramatic 12 places since the last Best Student Cities index. The most affordable city so far in the list, Hong Kong offers relatively low daily living expenses – though rent is fairly expensive. As one of the most densely populated areas in the world, Hong Kong is a bustling global city packed with seven leading educational institutes, three of which rank among the top 40 universities in the world. The University of Hong Kong (HKU), ranked 26th in the QS World University Rankings, is its leading institution.
8th - Boston
Despite dropping from 3rd to 8th place this year, Boston is still one of the world’s best known and loved student cities, boasting world-class arts and culture, rich history, and outstanding academic credentials. The city boasts a total of eight institutions and, within its wider area, two of the world’s most elite institutions: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, currently occupying the top two spots in the QS World University Rankings. This makes Boston second only to London in the Rankings category and also very well-scored for Employer Activity.
9th – Montréal
Montréal, climbing one place this year, is home to three ranked universities, led by McGill University, currently 21st in the world, and the second highest ranked Canadian institution. Montréal scores well in the Student Mix category and offers a diverse culture and multilingual population. It’s also known for its vibrant music scene and plays host to many international cultural events, including the Montreal International Jazz Festival and Just for Laughs, the world’s largest comedy festival.
10th - Munich
Jumping three places this year, Munich leapfrogs past Berlin to rank as Germany’s leading student city. Scoring very well for Quality of Living and getting the highest score within the top 10 for Affordability, Munich offers minimal tuition fees, and several of the best universities in Europe. Its leading university, Technische Universität München, is ranked second best in Germany and 53rd in the world. The city is also well known as the home of the infamous Oktoberfest, an annual celebration of the region’s beer-brewing traditions which is reputedly the world’s largest fair.