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7 Best Student Cities You’ve Never Heard Of

By Sabrina Collier

Updated November 27, 2020 Updated November 27, 2020

The QS Best Student Cities ranking currently highlights 120 of the world’s best places to be a student, based on a methodology which considers each city’s affordability, student mix, desirability and more.

Aside from the usual top student cities, (the likes of London, Tokyo and Melbourne), there are quite a few entries which are less well known study destinations, but which you should definitely consider. Check out these seven excellent student cities – which you might not have heard of…



Kicking off our list is Sweden’s second-largest city, the 55th best student city this year. Gothenburg is a very student-friendly city, with a large student community. It’s also especially likely to appeal to those who want something different to the quiet, historical, cities in which you’ll find many of Sweden’s universities. 

There’s plenty of culture to explore, and the city hosts some of the largest annual events in Scandinavia, including the annual Gothenburg Film Festival and the Gothenburg Book Fair.

Unfortunately, as with many Nordic cities, student life isn’t cheap (with tuition fees averaging at US$14,800) – but it’s likely to be more affordable than other Swedish cities. Universities in Gothenburg include two institutions ranked in the top 300 of the QS World University Rankings®: the Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg.



Another underrated but strong contender at 68th in this year’s QS Best Student Cities ranking, Hsinchu could be perfect if you want to study in Taiwan but don’t feel up to the hustle and bustle of capital Taipei

Like Chicago, Hsinchu’s windy climate has given it the nickname ‘the windy city’. It’s known for innovation and prosperity, with the nearby Hsinchu Science and Industrial Park dubbed the ‘Silicon Valley of the Orient’.

This innovative spirit is reflected in the city’s universities, with National Tsing Hua University and National Chiao Tung University both ranked in the top 50 of the QS Asia University Rankings 2021.

Hsinchu is also a very affordable place to study, with tuition fees only costing US$2,900 and low living costs – for example, rent in Hsinchu is 69 percent lower than in Taipei, according to Numbeo. As a result, the city scores incredibly well for affordability, in 11th place worldwide.



Next in our list of the best student cities you’ve never heard of is Daejeon, another very technological and innovative city, located in South Korea and ranked joint 89th in the Best Student Cities ranking in 2019.

From relatively humble origins, it’s grown to become a major science and research center, again known for its focus on innovation. Daejeon is home to several of the leading universities in South Korea, including the internationally famed KAIST – Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, which ranks 39th in the QS World University Rankings®.

You’re never far from inspiration or technology in Daejeon; the city is home to Expo Park (a science and technology theme park) and is near to the Daedeok Science Town, which is known as the ‘brain’ of South Korea.

In the QS Best Student Cities ranking, Daejeon receives its highest score for employer activity, showing that it’s a strong recruitment ground in the eyes of graduate employers.

Gold Coast

Gold Coast

This aptly named Australian city possesses stunning golden beaches and is ranked 84th in the QS Best Student Cities 2019 ranking. It may not be the first city that comes to mind when you think of studying in Australia, but this tourist hotspot is likely to be right up your alley if you love sea, sand and surfing. One of its suburbs is even called ‘Surfer’s Paradise’.

Aside from sunning yourself, there’s plenty to do and explore here, such as the Gold Coast hinterland, a captivating array of waterfalls, rainforests, mountains and national parks.

Gold Coast’s highest-ranking university is Griffith University, ranked in the global top 350, and the city has a great student mix, with 19 percent of students at its internationally ranked institutions coming from abroad.



The next city on our list is a total contrast to Gold Coast, swapping the sunshine and sand for the cold and snow of the Siberian city of Tomsk. One of Russia’s smaller and lesser-known cities, Tomsk places 73rd this year in the Best Student City rankings.

Tomsk is the fourth most affordable city in the whole ranking, with far lower costs of living than you’d find in Moscow or St Petersburg. According to Numbeo, consumer prices (including rent) are on average 74 percent cheaper in Tomsk, compared to Moscow. Tuition fees are also reasonable, at an average of US$2,600 per year for international undergraduates at Tomsk’s ranked universities.

While winters here can be long and extreme, the city is an excellent choice for snow sport lovers, with plenty of opportunities to go skiing or snowboarding in your spare time. Tomsk is one of the oldest places in Siberia and is today known as a key scientific and educational center, with six public universities, attracting one of the largest student populations in the country. When asked about what they liked most about the city, respondents to our student survey said “the architecture and the friendly atmosphere.



Brno (pronounced Bir-no) is the second-largest city in the Czech Republic, and is ranked 60th in the Best Student Cities index, climbing three places this year. Relatively undiscovered by tourists, Brno is likely to charm those who do visit, with its medieval fortresses and castles, full of mysteries and providing material for numerous local legends. Although now very much a modern city, it has also preserved many of its traditions and has a vibrant cultural life.

Brno is also an important center of higher education, home to some of the highest-ranked Czech universities, including Masaryk University. The city receives its highest score in the student view indicator in this year’s ranking, which is calculated based on the results of our student survey. You can find out more about the top 10 student cities according to students here.



Last but by no means least, Monterrey – ‘the City of the Mountains’, is located in north-east Mexico in an attractive location close to the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range, and is ranked 91st in the Best Student Cities ranking in 2019. 

The commercial, industrial, educational and transportation hub of northern Mexico, Monterrey is also often considered the most ‘Americanized’ and developed city in the country, combining a modern outlook with plenty of history and traditional culture to explore.

Monterrey earned its highest score for the affordability indicator at 24th, with far lower tuition fees than in the neighboring US – an average of $9600 for international students compared to an average of $30,471 in the 14 US cities featured in the rankings this year. It also has a strong score for employer activity, which is in the top 50 in the world, reflecting the strong reputation of its graduates and universities.

Monterrey has two top universities, Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM) and Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (UANL) which were featured at third and 44th respectively in the latest QS Latin America University Rankings.

This blog post was originally published in December 2015. It was most recently updated in November 2020. 

This article was originally published in May 2018 . It was last updated in November 2020

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Written by

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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