QS Best Student Cities 2015: London Vs Paris | Top Universities

QS Best Student Cities 2015: London Vs Paris

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated June 23, 2015 Updated June 23, 2015

The French and UK capitals, just a few hours apart by (under-sea) train, have centuries of rivalry behind them, and the “London Vs Paris” game shows no sign of letting up. Glee levels in the British media spiked earlier this year, following news that London had overtaken long-term rival Paris as the world’s most-visited city.

Then, at the start of October, London was named the world’s most desirable city to work in, ahead of New York and Paris. But later in the same month, Paris topped a list of the world’s most affordable cities for young people, thanks to a high minimum wage which balances out high living costs (London came sixth). And while overall the UK economy seems to be outdoing its cross-channel competitor, at the end of last month it was revealed that London’s young professionals are leaving in larger numbers than ever before, with the city’s high costs of living proving a growing ‘push’ factor.

While the UK media continues to chew over the problem of London’s skyscraper-high property prices, French newspapers snapped up the opportunity to celebrate Paris’ third consecutive year in the penthouse of the QS Best Student Cities index – an annual ranking of the world’s top 50 cities for international students. London slipped one place to third, with Melbourne now standing in between the two European antagonists – but, as ever, the contest remains a close one.

So for any prospective students wondering whether to choose London or Paris, here’s a quick look at how the two rivals compare when it comes to higher education, affordability, student community and more…

London Vs Paris: Universities

Winner: London

London and Paris are the world’s top two cities in terms of quantity of internationally ranked universities. However, London has slightly more (18 entries in the QS World University Rankings, one more than Paris), and also wins when it comes to ranking level. The UK hub boasts two institutions in the global top five: Imperial College London (currently 2= in the world, alongside the University of Cambridge) and University College London (UCL, 5= in the world, joint with the University of Oxford). The highest Parisian representative is ENS Paris, at a respectable but less show-stopping 28th in the world.

London Vs Paris: Affordability

Winner: Paris

One point on which Parisian universities are the clear winners is affordability. For both domestic/EU and international students, tuition fees are much lower in France than in the UK. Based on the ranked institutions, international students heading to Paris can expect to pay an average of US$2,400 per year, compared to US$22,100 in London. Beyond fees, both capitals are relatively expensive places to live – in the Mercer Cost of Living Index, London is 12th out of 214 cities and Paris 27th. Daily costs are likely to be slightly higher in the latter, as reflected in retail indices such as The Economist’s Big Mac Index, while London’s accommodation costs are notoriously high. But aside from all other expenses, most students are likely to find the almost tenfold difference in tuition fees makes Paris the clear cost-effectiveness champion.

London Vs Paris: Student Community

Winner: London

A third category of assessment in the QS Best Student Cities relates to the size of the student community at ranked institutions (both overall and relative to the total population), the international diversity of enrolments, and – a new indicator for this year – levels of tolerance and inclusivity, based on the Social Progress Index. London gets the higher overall score here; it has a larger total number of students, and a significantly higher percentage of international students at its top institutions (41% to Paris’ 19%).

London Vs Paris: Employer Activity

Winner: London

The “employer activity” category draws on QS’s major global surveys of graduate employers, who are asked to identify the universities they prefer to recruit from. Each city is scored according to its institutions’ reputations in the global graduate job market, with extra points awarded for those whose lights shine bright even beyond their own national borders. Here, London not only beats Paris, but in fact claims the highest score in the ranking, joint with Boston. However, Paris is not far behind, scoring 96 to London’s perfect 100.

London Vs Paris: Desirability

Winner: Paris

The final category in the QS Best Student Cities index draws on a range of data-sets to assess each city’s overall “desirability” as a place to live and study. Both capitals have their fair share of the problems associated with big-city life, ranking in the mid-range for both crime and pollution levels – while boasting two of the world’s most desirable and globally connected societies. London’s status on the world stage earns it the Alpha++ accolade in the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) index (awarded only to London and New York) – yet Paris is almost as impressive a global hub, classified Alpha+. Meanwhile Paris ranks 16th out of 140 cities in The Economist’s Global Liveability Ranking, while London is 55th.

Of course, all this is likely to be academic for the majority of prospective students, for whom the “London Vs Paris” question has probably already been solved by a simple attraction (appropriately enough, a word shared in common by French and English) towards one of these two iconic and internationally aspired-to cities. London or Paris: which would you choose?

This article was originally published in December 2014 . It was last updated in June 2015

Want more content like this Register for free site membership to get regular updates and your own personal content feed.

Written by

The former editor of TopUniversities.com, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'


Get assisted by higher education experts

Our expert teams can help start your academic journey by guiding you through the application process.