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Seven Best Student Cities in Australia

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Sabrina Collier

Updated Sep 21, 2022



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With seven cities ranked among the top 75 in the QS Best Student Cities 2016, Australia stands out as one of the most attractive places to study abroad, offering students high-quality education in stunning locations.

The best student cities in Australia achieve particularly strong scores in the indicators for Student Mix, Desirability and Employer Activity, while two of Australia’s seven entries boast positions in the top five of the overall ranking. Like the US and the UK, Australian cities tend to stumble on affordability, but for many students it’s worth the price tag.

Below are the seven best cities in Australia to be a student – all offering at least two internationally ranked universities, plus a unique study abroad experience (click on each city name for more details).

1. Melbourne


Melbourne retains second place in the Best Student Cities ranking this year, beaten only by Paris, and it’s not difficult to see why. Known as the cultural capital of Australia, Melbourne is packed full of things to do, especially if you’re into live music, comedy or sporting events. The city is home to seven universities which feature in the international rankings, and achieves the best score in the entire index for ‘student mix’, with multicultural exchange highlighted among the best things about student life in Melbourne. With beautiful beaches and a high standard of living (Melbourne is currently rated the world’s most livable city by The Economist), the city also achieves a strong score for ‘desirability’. Melbourne is also Australia’s highest ranked city in both the ‘rankings’ and ‘employer activity’ categories, reflecting the prestige of the (albeit pricey) education on offer.

2. Sydney

Hot on the heels of Melbourne is Australia’s largest city and economic and financial hub, Sydney, which is fourth in the Best Student Cities index. Although it misses out on the top spot in our list of the best cities in Australia for students, Sydney ranks first in the entire index for ‘desirability’, thanks to a winning combination of a high quality of life coupled with a paradisiacal mix of beaches and green spaces. The city also ranks well for ‘student mix’, with a quarter of students at its five internationally ranked universities coming from overseas. Aside from offering an enjoyable student experience, the city is home to some of Australia’s most respected universities, two of which rank among the top 50 in the QS World University Rankings® 2015/16. And employers have certainly noticed this prestige, as Sydney also receives a high score for ‘employer activity’.

3. Canberra

Australia’s capital, Canberra, has climbed four places in the Best Student Cities ranking this year to place 17th. Like all of the Australian entries, Canberra scores very well in the ‘student mix’ category, reflecting its large and internationally diverse student population. As the home of Australia’s highest ranked university, Australian National University (joint 19th in the QS World University Rankings®), it’s unsurprising to find the city has proven attractive to students from around the world. Canberra’s second strongest score is in the ‘desirability’ category, and while it may be one of Australia’s few major settlements which is not within walking distance of the seaside, Canberra does have plenty of attractions – including its own (man-made) lake right in the city center, and numerous nature reserves all around.

4. Brisbane

Next in our list of the best cities in Australia for students is another of this year’s rising stars – Brisbane moves up five places this year to be joint 18th with Auckland. Considered a very friendly city, Brisbane is home to three major universities and a sizable student population. However, it’s not just a student bubble; this up-and-coming city is also a tourist destination with the largest economy between Sydney and Singapore. Like many Australian cities, Brisbane offers an ideal mix for students seeking a balance between urban and outdoor lifestyles. Stunning beaches, a sunny climate and a sporting culture coexist with a cosmopolitan down-town area offering a trendy nightlife and arts scene.

5. Adelaide

Australia’s fifth largest city, Adelaide is ranked 26th in the Best Student Cities index. Located on the south coast, it’s known for its attractive wide boulevards, open spaces, parklands and easily navigable city center. As well as being close to beautiful beaches and islands, the city is also within easy reach of the Adelaide Hills, great for hiking, cycling, wildlife-watching, or sampling some of Australia’s best wines close to the vineyards where they’re produced. Three universities based in Adelaide are featured in the QS World University Rankings® 2015/16, all within the world’s top 550: the University of AdelaideUniversity of South Australia and Flinders University. Adelaide achieves its best score in the ‘student mix’ category, with a large and diverse student population.

6. Perth

The next of our best cities in Australia to be a student is also the most isolated – located on the Western coast, more than 2,000 miles away from the likes of Sydney and Melbourne. Perth, ranked 36th in the Best Student Cities index, is another highly appealing place to live, scoring well for both ‘desirability’ and ‘student mix’. Offering all the cultural, culinary and recreational attractions you would expect of a state capital with a population of over 2 million, Perth also promises an idyllic climate and access to some of the most stunning beaches and parkland you’ll ever see. Three universities in Perth are featured in the QS World University Rankings® 2015/16, the highest ranked of which is the University of Western Australia (UWA) at 98th in the world. 

7. Gold Coast

The final of our best student cities in Australia is a new entry which you may not have heard of, but which certainly shouldn’t be overlooked. Ranked 69th in the Best Student Cities index, Gold Coast is located in Queensland, south of Brisbane. It boasts 52km of golden sands and 300 sunny days per year, and even has a suburb named ‘Surfer’s Paradise’. Indeed, surfers and general beach fans will feel right at home here, and it’s unsurprising that Gold Coast receives its highest score in the ‘desirability’ category of the QS Best Student Cities index. Away from all the skyscrapers, the surrounding rural hinterland, referred to as the ‘green behind the gold’, is a lush, subtropical rainforest of three national parks, with numerous mountains, natural rock formations and spectacular waterfalls.

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