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Does the City Matter When Choosing a University?

Does the City Matter When Choosing a University? main image

I have repeatedly asserted that there are many factors, not just one, that prospective international students consider before choosing a university or college to take admission in. These factors include, but are not limited to, quality of education (of course!), fees (another very important factor), living expenses, culture and social life.

Ahead of the launch of the new edition of the QS Best Student Cities index, I decided to find out whether the city in which the university is based also plays a role. I asked a selection of international students in Australia: was the city they would be based in part of their selection criteria when choosing a university or deciding where to study abroad, and what would they look for in a perfect student city? While some of the answers were predictable, others were very surprising…

Is the country more important than the city?

I was not surprised to find that many international students did have a favorite city in sight, where they wanted to go and complete their education – but at the same time they had kept their options open. This means if someone wanted to study in Sydney and couldn’t get admission there, s/he would not have been sad about coming to Melbourne. As long as the country remained the same, they were flexible on the cities. “I wanted to go to Perth because I had heard a lot about the beaches there,” one student told me. “But there were better universities in Melbourne so I chose the latter because I still have this option of going to Perth and enjoying the beaches whenever I can.”

How significant is public transport?

Many international students, and this would include me too, want to see a good public transport network in the city they live in. “For me, the best student city would be the one that has an amazing 24/7 public transport system,” another student said. “Moreover,” she continued, “it should be very efficient as well as cheap.” I agree that this is not too much to ask. It’s always a good idea to rely on public transport, but if the system is not efficient and costs a lot, then I wouldn’t consider the city as among the best for students (I am in fact not a big fan of public transport in Melbourne).

Do the people make the place?

This is something that everyone would want, so it was not very surprising to see students longing to have a friendly neighborhood. It’s really a cause of concern when you are moving to a new place and you don’t know what’s waiting for you. “I was very scared when I was leaving my home and coming to Australia,” a student from India shared her thoughts. “I had no idea of how my roommates and neighbors would treat me and that made me a little nervous, but thank God it turned out to be amazing and awesome for me.”

Where’s the party?

You would expect students to want to have fun when their academic session is in progress, and even more during vacations. But I was a little amazed to discover a lot of students ranking awesome party places as one of the key attractions in a great student city. “I’m not the one who’s all for party,” a Sydney-based student told me. “But I would certainly like to have a drink or two on a weekend with my friends at a place that is fun.”

The factors mentioned above are just a few among many that make a city a great place for international students. But as a future international student, you may want to ask yourself whether you would be willing to compromise on the city of your choice, and which factors are really the most important when choosing a university. Whatever you decide, be assured that studying abroad will be a journey of a lifetime. So welcome any opportunity with open arms.

What do you think makes a great student city? Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter with #QSBestCities.

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Written by Zain Nabi
Hailing from Pakistan, Zain finished a Masters of Journalism and International Relations at Monash University in Australia. He is working as a journalist and media trainer in Melbourne along with secretly harboring an ambition to become a filmmaker.

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