Universities in San Diego - QS Best Student Cities Ranking | Top Universities

Study in San Diego

By Sabrina Collier

Updated July 1, 2022 Updated July 1, 2022

San Diego for students

Falling one place in the Best Student Cities ranking this year, San Diego still has plenty to offer prospective students interested in studying on the west coast of America, with three of the world's top universities located here - according to the QS World University Rankings® 2023.

The highest ranking university in the city is the University of California, San Diego which is currently 53rd in the world and among the top 20 universities in the US.

Best universities in San Diego - QS Best Student Cities ranking: 80th

Rank University
53 University of California, San Diego (UCSD)
1001-1200 San Diego State University
1001-1200 University of San Diego

More about San Diego

Since the last Best Student Cities ranking, San Diego has improved its rank for desirability. However, its best performance continues to be for the rankings indicator, largely thanks to the strong academic performance of UCSD.

Number of universities ranked by QS


Highest-ranked institution

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) (53rd)



Average international fees (at ranked unis)


Desirability rank


Employer Activity rank


Affordability rank


Student View rank


To find out how each of the above categories is calculated, view the methodology.

Why study in San Diego?

Great beaches

Surfing and sunbathing on San Diego’s beaches are two popular activities for students looking to unwind after a busy day of lectures.

Being able to travel

As San Diego is located right next to the Mexican border, students often go over to visit Mexico and experience the nightlife and the food.

Exciting nightlife

San Diego is known for its excellent parties and nightlife. With nightclubs, bars and concerts, there’s something for everyone.

The universities

San Diego is home to plenty of great universities, including the top-ranking university in the city, UCSD.

Cost of studying in San Diego

The cost of studying and living in San Diego isn’t cheap, and the affordability indicator reflects this, with the city ranking 101st in the world.

The cost of studying in San Diego is around US$18,700 per year for international students, although scholarships and financial aid programmes are available.

Numbeo estimates that a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre will cost around US$2,152 per month, while a single person living in San Diego will need an extra US$712 monthly for living costs.

Life & culture in San Diego

With attractive beaches and numerous tourist attractions, the city has been given the nickname ‘America's Finest City’. It’s also often featured in lists of the safest cities in the US and is known for having excellent weather all year round.

The 1,200-acre Balboa Park is a popular spot for local culture, as it contains many green spaces as well as museums, theaters and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

Due to its location as a border town, San Diego is heavily influenced by both Mexican and American cultures, resulting in a wide range of cuisines to sample in the city’s many restaurants.

The city is also well known for its craft-brewing scene, with the city and county (of the same name) often called ‘America's craft beer capital’.

Careers in San Diego

San Diego has lots of jobs available for graduates, particularly in the healthcare and tech industries, which tend to have plenty of roles available for highly skilled graduates as these roles are usually highly specialized and require technical expertise.

The presence of UCSD and other research institutions has helped to fuel the biotechnology and healthcare industries in the city.

International trade also plays a major role in contributing to San Diego’s economy, particularly due to the city sharing a border with Mexico. 

This article was originally published in November 2015 . It was last updated in July 2022

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