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Best Student Cities for Top Universities

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The QS Best Student Cities, an index of the world’s top 50 cities for students, assesses cities on 14 indicators covering five categories: university rankings, student mix, employer activity, quality of life and affordability. The rankings category is based on data collected as part of the QS World University Rankings®, and each city gets a score based on the number of ranked institutions it has, and how highly those institutions are ranked.

So if you want to study in a city which has a large selection of top universities, here are ten destinations that should be on your shortlist...

1. London

Topping the list is London, with its highly impressive community of internationally lauded institutions. Top of the bunch are UCL (University College London) and Imperial College London, both ranked within the world’s top 5 in the latest QS World University Rankings®. Other top universities in London include King’s College London, LSE (London School of Economics and Political Science), Queen Mary, Royal Holloway, SOAS – and many more. In the overall index, London comes second, behind its historic rival Paris.

2. Boston 

Across the Atlantic, Boston almost matches London (scoring 98 compared to the UK capital’s perfect 100 points) in the university rankings category of the index. For the purposes of this exercise, the Boston area is taken to include neighboring Cambridge, which is home to the current two top universities in the QS World University Rankings – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard. Boston itself also has a number of other top universities to choose from, including Boston University, Tufts, Brandeis, Boston College and Northeastern University.

3= Paris

Occupying the top spot in the overall Best Student Cities index, the French capital scores well across all five categories assessed. While no Parisian university is quite as internationally famous as the leading lights of London and Boston, the city does boast a very large selection of high ranking institutions, led by École Normale Superieure, Paris (ENS Paris), ranked 28th in the latest QS World University Rankings. Other top universities in Paris include École Polytechnique ParisTech, Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC), Université Paris-Sud 11, Sciences Po, Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) – and as in London, many more to choose from.

3= New York 

Equaling Paris with a score of 95, New York is actually just outside the top 20 in the overall Best Student Cities listing – it scores well in most categories, but like other US destinations, doesn’t do so well for affordability. However, while tuition fees may well be high, the iconic metropoplis does boast some of the world’s most prestigious and famed institutions, including Ivy League members Columbia and Cornell, ranked 14th and 15th in the world, as well as New York University (NYU), which also makes the global top 50, and a number of other internationally esteemed options. (Cornell's main campus is in Ithaca, about 200 miles away, but it does have several faculties based in New York City, including schools of technology, biomedical sciences and architecture.)

3= Chicago 

The US’s third most populous city after New York and Los Angeles, Chicago shows it’s a match for the ‘Big Apple’ when it comes to top universities. Its highest performer is the University of Chicago, currently 9th in the QS World University Rankings, and Northwestern University, the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC), Illinois Institute of Technology, and Loyola University Chicago all also rank on the global stage. In the overall index, Chicago is a few places behind New York, with slightly lower scores for student mix and employer activity, but a slightly better affordability rating.

6= Hong Kong 

Very close behind these popular European and US study destinations is leading Asian education hub Hong Kong, which this year comes out at 7th in the overall Best Student Cities. The densely packed, vibrant city-state is home to seven institutions ranked by QS, of which the strongest performers are Hong Kong University (HKU; currently 26th in the QS World University Rankings), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and City University of Hong Kong.

6= San Francisco 

On a par with Hong Kong, this Californian coastal city also gets a score of 94 for its top universities. For the purposes of the index, institutions within the wider San Francisco Bay Area are included. The area’s top ranked institution is Stanford University (7th in the world), followed by the University of California, Berkeley (25th), and several more rank well internationally. Getting very strong scores for employer activity and quality of living, San Francisco comes out at 12th in the overall Best Student Cities list.

8. Seoul 

Very close behind again (with a score of 93), Seoul has an impressive 14 universities ranked by QS, of which the highest is Seoul National University (SNU), at 35= in the world. The South Korean capital is 14th in the overall Best Student Cities ranking, getting strong scores for student mix and employer activity, and a relatively good rating for affordability. Alongside SNU, other top universities in Seoul include Yonsei University, Korea University, Sungkyunkwan University and Hanyang University.

9. Tokyo 

Just one point behind Seoul is the capital of South Korea’s neighboring island country, Japan. Tokyo’s top institution, the University of Tokyo (ranked 32nd in the world), is joined by a further 10 top universities ranked by QS, including Tokyo Institute of Technology, Keio University, Waseda University, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Tokyo University of Science and Tokyo Metropolitan University. In the overall Best Student Cities, Tokyo currently stands at 17th, with a high rating from graduate recruiters and a better score for affordability than you might expect.

10. Melbourne 

Completing this top 10 is Melbourne, with a score of 89 for its top universities. Overall, Australia’s ‘cultural capital’ is ranked 5= in the Best Student Cities (joint with Zurich), getting top marks in the ‘Student Mix’ category (which measures the size and international diversity of the student community) and strong scores for employer activity and quality of life. As well as the University of Melbourne (ranked 31st in the world) and Monash University (also in the world’s top 100), the city is home to another five high ranking universities.

Jane Playdon's profile image
Written by Jane Playdon
Jane Playdon is a TopUniversities.com author and blogger.

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I want to do M.arc so which is the best top university for this course .please help me .I need it so much please ........and thanks for this information.

Hi Saurabh, please take a look at our latest rankings by subject for architecture - you can narrow the results down depending on what region/country you'd like to study in, and can also directly compare universities. Hope this is helpful. :)

thanx for the information.