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7 of the Best Small Student Cities

7 of the Best Small Student Cities main image

Although giant, sprawling metropolises like London and New York are must-visit tourist destinations, not everyone feels comfortable studying there. Depending on your personality, you might be more at home in a smaller, more relaxed student city, in which you’ll soon find your way and fit in with the locals. If you think small city life is for you, read on for some destinations you should consider - all ranked within the top 100 of the QS Best Student Cities 2017!

1. Brno


QS Best Student Cities ranking: 59th

Starting off our list of the best small cities is the charming Brno in the Czech Republic, which climbed by 14 places in this year’s Best Student Cities index. This rise was helped by the fact it received a very high score in the new Student View category, based on the results of our student survey. With a population of 810,000, Brno (population 810,000) is a vibrant university city that’s home to around 10,500 students, 20% of whom are international. Brno students greatly enjoy their experience, with the city’s friendliness and diversity standing out in particular. Brno is also extremely affordable, with very low costs of living and annual tuition fees averaging only US$4,600. If residents ever fancy a day trip, Brno is also well-connected to larger European cities, including Prague, Vienna and Bratislava.

2. Hsinchu


QS Best Student Cities ranking: 75th

Next up is the Taiwanese city of Hsinchu, home to 435,000 people and a more laid-back atmosphere than capital city Taipei’s busy streets. Known as ‘The Windy City’ (which helps to keep it fairly pollution-free), Hsinchu should be a hit with science and technology fans, as it houses Taiwan’s answer to Silicon Valley, the Hsinchu Science and Industrial Park. The city also scores very well for Affordability, with living costs lower than in Taipei and tuition fees averaging only US$3,400 a year. There are also an increasing number of programs taught partly or completely in English at Hsinchu’s universities.

3. Vilnius


QS Best Student Cities ranking: 96th

A new entry in this year’s Best Student Cities index, Lithuania’s capital city is ideal for those who want to study in a cosmopolitan European capital which is large enough to have plenty to do but small enough that you’re unlikely to ever get lost. Ranked in the top 50 of our new Student View category, Vilnius is also a reasonably affordable city to live and study in, with average annual tuition fees of only US$2,300. The city is home to beautiful baroque and gothic architecture and one of the largest surviving medieval old towns in northern Europe. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is ideal for exploring in your spare time between lectures. There are also a number of English-taught programs available.

4. Ottawa


QS Best Student Cities ranking: 26th

Up 23 places in the Best Student Cities index this year and the highest ranked in this list, you might be confused to see Canada’s capital featured as one of the best small cities. However, when compared to huge other North American cities like New York and Toronto, Ottawa is very small, with only 1.2 million residents in its metropolitan area. Ottawa was ranked first in our Student View category, reflecting the enjoyable student lifestyle, friendliness and diversity on offer. One student from the city told our survey: “I love the opportunities and the diversity as well as the student-centered culture”.

5. Toulouse


QS Best Student Cities ranking: 68th

Back to Europe, and the French city of Toulouse, home to 1.2 million people. Known as la Ville Rose (the Pink City) for the use of pink bricks in its architecture, Toulouse’s city center is small and walkable. Home to the Université de Toulouse system (one of the oldest in the world), the city has a large student population and is considered very safe. The city has a vibrant cultural scene, with festivals and other big events throughout the year, as well as a lively nightlife.

6. Christchurch


QS Best Student Cities ranking: 74th

Over in New Zealand, Christchurch is the country’s largest city on the South Island and is home to 390,000 people. Set among rolling hills, mountains and waterways, Christchurch is an ideal city for anyone who enjoys outdoor activities, with opportunities for mountain biking, surfing, climbing, skiing, snowboarding and climbing. Considered New Zealand’s most English city, Christchurch gained the nickname ‘The Garden City’ for its extensive parks and gardens, and also features Gothic-inspired architecture. Christchurch home to some of New Zealand’s strongest universities, including the University of Canterbury (ranked joint 214th in the world).

7. Tomsk


QS Best Student Cities ranking: 91st

Last but not least in our look at the best small cities for students, the Russian city of Tomsk is home to 525,000 people and is a new entrant in this year’s Best Student Cities index. Located in Siberia, Tomsk is perfect for snow lovers, and is also one of this year’s 10 most affordable cities, thanks to its ideal combination of low tuition fees and living costs. The city has a large and diverse student population, with 21% of students hailing from outside Russia, proving it’s possible to meet people from around the world without needing to study in a huge city.

How would you rate your student city? Share your experience in our student survey!

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Sabrina Collier's profile image
Written by Sabrina Collier
The former Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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Please help me.

Hi Jyoti, what do you need help with? :)

hey am martin
am martin from uganda and i like to continue my studies in any country accept my country due to internal conflicts which led my father and mother died so i have fought to my last breath till i have managed to reach university but now am out of fees am looking for a scholarship or a foster home where i can stay be there son
am yours martin anyone who can help me you can reach me and am doing information technology thnks

Hi Martin, I'm very sorry for your losses. We've listed a wide range of scholarships to study abroad in different countries here, including scholarships for African students. You might also like to apply for a QS Scholarship. Hope this helps.