10 of the Most Diverse Student Cities | Top Universities

10 of the Most Diverse Student Cities

By Sabrina Collier

Updated August 9, 2019 Updated August 9, 2019

One major draw of studying abroad is the opportunity to meet with other students from various locations and backgrounds, opening your mind to people from different walks of life, and often forming real friendships in the process. So, if you see diversity as an important factor in where you’d like to study, you may be interested to read about the 10 cities below – all included among the top 120 places in the world to be a student in our QS Best Student Cities 2019 index.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of the cities below also achieve an excellent score in the student mix indicator, one of the five categories used to compile the rankings, which looks at the student make-up of a city.

Read on as we count down the best student cities with the highest ratio of international students out of its total student population, plus more info on why they’re great places to study.

=9. Brisbane


Starting off with a slightly overlooked Australian city, Brisbane is the third highest-ranked of Australia’s seven entrants in the Best Student Cities index at 22nd, and comes fourth in the student mix indicator. 36 percent of the student population in Brisbane comes from outside Australia, making it an ideal choice for students looking for a sunny, laid-back and diverse student city. For example, more than 18,000 of the 53,700 students at the University of Queensland (the highest-ranked university in the city) are international.

=9. Edinburgh


Heading to the UK, the Scottish capital is joint ninth with Brisbane for diversity, with 36 percent of its student population of 51,300 coming from outside the UK. Edinburgh came 15th overall in this year’s Best Student Cities index, with its best score for the student mix indicator. 

When asked in our student survey what the best things are about studying in Edinburgh, one respondent told us “Feeling safe, being surrounded by an abundance of nature and meeting people from all over the world” while another said “A combination of many things: nature, history, world-class facilities, diversity. Everything was in a perfect balance.”

8. Auckland


Heading back to Oceania, New Zealand’s largest city is also one of the most diverse places to study abroad, and places joint 27th in the city ranking this year, achieving fifth place in the student mix indicator. The city’s highest-ranked university in the QS World University Rankings®, the University of Auckland, is also number one in New Zealand and consistently places in the global top 100. More than 8,000 of the university’s 42,759 students come from outside New Zealand, and one person has this to say in our survey: “There are many places to go, many things do and so much to see, it is a diverse and multicultural city indeed”.

=6. Canberra


Australia’s capital is another ideal choice for those looking for a multicultural study destination – 6.9 percent of the population are students, and of these, 39 percent are international. Canberra also placed 23rd overall in the QS Best Student Cities index, with one individual in our student survey stating: “Almost the entire population is made up of students or diplomats so it’s a pretty cool mix of people.”

=6. Sydney


The joint sixth most diverse city according to the QS Best Student Cities index is Sydney, which was also rated ninth overall. It gets the second-highest score in the city ranking for the student mix indicator, thanks to its large and multicultural student population. Respondents in our student survey said they loved the opportunities to meet people from other countries, while others pointed out the relaxed lifestyle, friendly people and employment opportunities.

5. Melbourne

The final of the four Australian cities to feature in this list is Melbourne, which is the most diverse city in the country according to our data. Students in Melbourne make up 4.7 percent of the population, with 40 percent coming from abroad – no doubt attracted to the amazing lifestyle, cityscape and cultural offerings available. Melbourne was ranked third in the QS Best Student Cities this year, and first in the student mix indicator.

4. London


In fourth place in our list of the most diverse cities for students is London, which was also featured in first place overall in the QS Best Student Cities index in 2019. Perhaps unsurprisingly given its huge population (over 14 million, depending on who you ask), London has the highest number of international students of any student city (more than 107,000), making up 41 percent of the student population. It also boasts the largest number of ranked universities in the World University Rankings (18).

3. Coventry

As well as being the third most international location in the QS Best Student Cities index this year, Coventry boasts the highest ratio of students to overall population in this list, with students making up 8.1 percent of its 652,000 population. Located in the West Midlands of England, Coventry’s highest-ranked university, the University of Warwick, is consistently ranked in the global top 65 of the QS World University Rankings.

2. Abu Dhabi

Given the huge expatriate population in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it’s probably unsurprising to find Abu Dhabi in this list. 46 percent of students in the Emirati capital are international, and around 80 percent of the overall population is made up of expats. Abu Dhabi was a new entry in this year’s Best Student Cities index at 88th, with Khalifa University its highest-ranked university in the world rankings at joint 268th.   

1. Dubai-Sharjah-Ajman


And finally, the number one student city when looking at the ratio of international students is the combined metropolitan area of Dubai-Sharjah-Ajman in the United Arab Emirates, which was ranked joint 60th in the Best Student Cities index and is home to around 5.6 million people. Half of its student population of 20,800 are from outside the UAE, reflecting the diversity of the country itself. One student said this about Dubai in our survey: “Very diverse but very friendly and tolerant. Also, the city has so many activities, you can never get bored.”

Other diverse places to study abroad…

Of course, you’re not limited to Australia, New Zealand, the UAE or the UK if you want a diverse study destination. Other diverse cities featuring in this year’s QS Best Student Cities index include:

  • Brussels – 33 percent of students at Belgium’s capital are international, and the city is ranked joint 43rd overall in the QS Best Student Cities index
  • Vienna – 32 percent of students come from outside Austria, and the city was ranked 13th overall
  • Hong Kong – Ranked 14th overall in the city ranking, 32 percent of Hong Kong’s 90,800 students are international
  • Tomsk – The Russian city of Tomsk is home to nearly 5,000 international students, or 30 percent of the student population. It places 73rd overall in 2019.

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This article was originally published in August 2019 .

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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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