Top 5 Student Cities in India | Top Universities

Top 5 Student Cities in India

By Joseph Birdsey

Updated October 30, 2023 Updated October 30, 2023

Are you hoping to study in India? Here’s an in-depth look at five of the country’s top cities for students, including data from the recently released QS University Rankings: BRICS 2015, which ranks the top universities in the fast-developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

1. Kanpur


Located in the state of Uttar Pradesh in the north of the country, Kanpur is among India’s old and significantly industrial cities.Lasting reminders of Kanpur’s industrial past and present can still be seen across its neighborhoods. It is still famed for its many tanneries, which have earned it the name of the ‘Leather City of the World’. In the wake of its industrial heyday, Kanpur has grown into the vibrant modern city that both tourists and students can enjoy spending time in.

Kanpur is located between two of India’s main rivers, with the Ganges to the north and the Pandu River to the south. The Ganges is sacred for India’s 940 million Hindus, and also claims a special historical significance as many former provincial capitals are located along its banks. The climate of Kanpur is typical for the region, which sees winter and summer temperatures that are slightly more extreme than the country’s averages.

For those looking to study in India, there are several universities in Kanpur, as well as a selection of engineering institutions, reflecting the city’s industrial legacy. The Indian Institute of Kanpur (IITK) leads the city’s universities, as India’s 4th highest-ranked university in the QS University Rankings: BRICS 2015. IITK was established in 1959 by an Act of Parliament, and was one of the earliest Indian Institutes of Technology to be established. There are currently 16 IITs spread across the major cities in India.

 2. Mumbai

Also known by its former official name of Bombay, Mumbai is the capital of the state of Maharashtra and the most populous city in India, home to approximately 18.4 million people. Mumbai is also home to several of the top universities in India, including the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT Bombay), which is India’s third-highest representative in the latest QS University Rankings: BRICS.

The story of Mumbai begins on a group of seven islands, which are thought to have been first inhabited around 2,000 years ago. It was mentioned by the ancient Greek geographer Ptolemy as ‘Heptanesia’, meaning “cluster of seven islands”. Largely due to its prime location on the shores of the Arabian Sea, Mumbai grew into a bustling and prosperous port. It was administered by the Delhi Sultanate and later the Gujarat Sultanate, before coming under Portuguese and later British colonial rule. Today, it’s not only the most populous but also the wealthiest city in India, with its thriving population and economy kept stoked by new arrivals from across India and beyond.

Due to its varied history, visitors to Mumbai can expect to find a rich variety of architectural styles on display throughout the city. With its location on the coast, the Indian ‘City of Dreams’ has several sandy beaches on offer, giving it a distinct edge over the country’s major inland cities. However, Mumbai’s most famous edge is its distinctive and thriving film industry. Dubbed ‘Bollywood’, the Indian film industry started in Mumbai in the early 20th century, and has grown to attract huge audiences both within India and worldwide.

 3. Delhi

Few Indian cities are historically as significant as our next entry. Delhi’s full official title, The National Capital Territory of Delhi, hints at its modern role as India’s diplomatic and governmental center. But it doesn’t quite capture the complicated history behind this. Since a settlement was first made here more than 2,500 years ago, Delhi has undergone repeated rebirths, having been ransacked, razed and rebuilt several times.

Modern Delhi, though markedly calmer and less cut-throat than in earlier times, can still be rather overwhelming for newcomers. A bustling metropolis with a population of over 16 million, it follows Mumbai as the second most populous city in India. As well as signs of its official role as the nation’s capital, evidence of Delhi’s fractured and varied history can be seen in the city’s architecture. It is home to a wealth of historic buildings, including the Mughal-built Humayun’s Tomb (pictured), and the iconic Red Fort, both of which are must-sees for anyone looking to travel or study in India.

In addition to its historic and diplomatic significance, Delhi is also a major hub for higher education, claiming many of the top universities in India. The city is home to the University of Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, among others. The Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IITD) also consistently ranks among the top universities in India. The country’s second-highest representative in the latest BRICS ranking, IITD also ranked within the top 50 of the QS University Rankings: Asia 2015.

4. Chennai

Formally known as Madras, Chennai is often compared to the US’s Detroit for its key role in the Indian automobile industry, and is famed around the world as a melting pot combining traditional values and modern developments. Chennai is the capital of Tamil Nadu, in the south of India, a state which is famed for its education system and which boasts the highest literacy rates in India.

Known as the ‘Gateway of South India’, Chennai is very low-lying and flat. It is home to many lakes, rivers and canals, and the city’s climate is largely dependent on the annual monsoon rains. Some of Chennai’s oldest buildings are temples which date to the 7th and 8th century. But as in many cities in India, visitors can also expect to encounter a wide range of more modern architecture, which has sprung up as the country rapidly develops.

The city is a worthy destination for anyone looking to study in India, particularly those with an interest in technology, and the automotive industry in particular. As well as the University of Madras and Anna University, Chennai is also home to the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM), which is India’s sixth-highest entrant in the latest BRICS ranking.

5. Bangalore

India’s third most populous city, Bangalore (officially ‘Bengaluru’) became capital of Mysore State upon India’s independence from British colonial rule. In 1956, the new state of Karnataka was formed, and Bangalore remains the capital of the region to this day.

Scratch the surface of Bangalore, and its history is waiting to be discovered. Archeological excavations have found Roman artefacts here, and there are many historical temples and landmarks throughout the city. However, modern Bangalore’s popularity as a destination for those hoping to study in India is largely due to its unique professional prospects. The city is home to India’s booming information technology industry, and is home to many of its leading tech brands.

Several of India’s leading specialist institutions can be found in Bangalore, including the National Institute of Fashion Technology; the National Institute of Design, Bangalore; the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore; and the National Law School of India University. The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore, India’s top representative in the 2015 BRICS ranking, is also located here. The city’s thriving student community and postgraduate employment prospects continue to make it a major hub for the next generation of India’s great thinkers, scholars and professionals.

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This article was originally published in July 2015 . It was last updated in October 2023

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