Universities in San Francisco - QS Best Student Cities Ranking | Top Universities
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Study in San Francisco

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Keshala Jayawickrama

Updated Sep 29, 2023
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Adjacent to California’s famed tech innovation hub Silicon Valley, San Francisco is within striking distance of two of the world’s most prestigious universities, Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, currently ranked 5th and 10th respectively in the QS World University Rankings 2024.

Made famous in the 1960s as the home of “flower power”, San Francisco remains one of the United States’ most iconic and frequently visited cities. With its famously laid-back coastal lifestyle and sunny climate, it’s known for its high quality of life, without the expensive living costs associated with cities like New York (though of course university fees are still as high as you’d expect from top US universities).

Today, the city’s bohemian heritage and relaxed beach style blends with more cutting-edge and competitive dynamics. One of the world’s leading 10 financial centres, the San Francisco Bay Area is home to hundreds of innovative companies, particularly in the technology sector, including the likes of Apple, Facebook and IBM, adding to its attraction for ambitious students and graduates.

As a result, this (as well as its high calibre of institutions) means that San Francisco scores highly in the employer activity indicator, ranked within the top 5 globally. This indicator is based on surveys of local and international employers, who are asked to identify the cities they perceive as producing the most talented and employable graduates.

When asked what they liked most about the city, students said that the city is “energetic” and “amazingly diverse”.

Are you currently studying in San Francisco? Rate your experience.

Best universities in San Francisco - QS Best Student Cities ranking: 20th

More about San Francisco

San Francisco is one of the world's best cities for employer activity and also scores highly for the performance of its universities in our World University Rankings.

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

Number of universities ranked by QS

4

Highest-ranked institution

Stanford University (5th)

Population

895,000

Average international fees (at ranked unis)

US$49,700

Desirability rank

44th

Employer Activity rank

=4th

Affordability rank

152nd

Student View rank

=26th

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

Why study in San Francisco?

Good job prospects for graduates

San Francisco ranks joint forth in the employer activity indicator, boasting great job prospects for graduates – particularly in the technology sector.

High standards of living

San Francisco enjoys a high quality of life, as indicated in its high score for desirability and student view.

Excellent education standards

San Francisco is home to four universities which feature in the QS World University Rankings 2024, of which the highest-ranked is Stanford University at 5th in the world, followed by the University of California, BerkeleyUniversity of San Francisco and San Francisco State University.

Cost of studying in San Francisco

San Francisco’s low score for affordability is accounted for by its high tuition fees and living costs. Tuition fees at universities in the city average at around US$49,700 per year for international students. 

Numbeo estimates that a single person’s monthly costs are around US$1,238, plus an additional US$3,280 for a single bedroom apartment in the city centre.

Life & culture in San Francisco

Home to 48 hills and one of the most iconic bridges in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco is considered one of the most progressive cities in the US.

Most visitors to San Francisco start by exploring the winding hairpin road of Lombard Street, taking a boat trip around Pier 39 and out to Alcatraz Island, or visiting Oracle Park and watching the San Francisco giants hit a homerun (or two).

As a student, you’ll also have plenty of opportunity to discover San Francisco’s buzzing nightlife, shops and cafés, or perhaps just take a break from studies by relaxing in one of the city’s many green parks, such as Golden Gate Park.

Careers in San Francisco

San Francisco holds on to its incredible score this year in the employer activity indicator, ranking joint fourth globally. If you're looking to stay in San Francisco after graduation, the San Francisco Bay Area is home to hundreds of innovative companies, particularly in the technology sector, including the likes of Apple, Facebook and IBM, adding to its attraction for ambitious students and graduates.

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