This year’s QS Best Student Cities index includes a brand new Student View category, based on ratings from students and recent graduates. The results are in some ways surprising, suggesting that the most iconic and in-demand cities (think London, Paris, NYC…) do not necessarily live up to expectations, while lesser-known cities often make for happier students.
Between December 2016 and January 2017, more than 18,000 students and graduates rated their cities in eight categories: arts and culture, affordability, nightlife, employment opportunities, diversity, tolerance and inclusion, ease of getting around, and friendliness. They were also asked whether they would stay, or had stayed, in the city after graduating.
So, which are the top 10 student cities overall, as rated by students themselves?
When the survey ratings are combined, the highest overall score goes to Canadian capital Ottawa, which – with a population of around 1.2 million in its wider metropolitan area – is among the smallest cities featured in the index. Proving that the best things often come in small packages, Ottawa gets particularly strong ratings for friendliness and tolerance, as well as (less predictably) nightlife. Survey respondents commend its student-centered culture, multicultural and bilingual environment, and opportunities to gain experience in government as well as other sectors.
Next up, the capital of the Czech Republic, known for its attractive and historic architecture, thriving nightlife and low costs. Prague gets especially high ratings for arts and culture, ease of getting around, affordability and diversity. Students praise the city’s beauty, location in the heart of Europe, low living costs and wide range of things to do, see, eat and drink.
Firmly at the “big city” end of the spectrum, Shanghai is the second-largest city featured in the index (after Tokyo). Yet, while you might expect navigating this megalopolis to be the stuff of nightmares, Shanghai actually gets its strongest rating in the “ease of getting around” category, while also scoring well for nightlife, friendliness, and arts and culture. Respondents also praise the city’s cuisine, opportunities to meet people from many backgrounds, and the buzz of studying in a city with international opportunities and influence.
Back to the Czech Republic, Brno is considerably less well-known than Prague, but it’s almost on a par with the capital in delivering a great student experience. The city gets extremely strong ratings for tolerance and inclusivity, and ease of getting around, while also scoring very well for both affordability and nightlife. Respondents praised the attractiveness of the city, as well as the large and friendly student community.
Also fourth in the student vote, Montréal is actually #1 overall in the QS Best Student Cities this year – taking the lead once the Student View category is combined with five others. As Canada’s “cultural capital”, it unsurprisingly gets one of the highest ratings for arts and culture, while also scoring well for friendliness, affordability and diversity. Survey respondents praise the wide range of activities in the city, multicultural and welcoming environment, and thriving student scene – with the popular fast food dish poutine also getting a mention!
The UK’s strongest all-round performer in the student survey is Nottingham. Gaining a particularly high score for tolerance and inclusion, Nottingham also ranks well for ease of getting around, arts and culture and friendliness. Survey respondents praise its student-focused “college-town feel”, green spaces, nightlife, and comparative affordability in the UK context.
Leading the US both in the overall QS Best Student Cities index and in the Student View category, Boston is a medium-sized city (population around 4.6 million) combining the best aspects of big city life with a small-town feel. Its top score is for friendliness, followed by strong ratings for ease of getting around and arts and culture. Respondents highlight its relaxed and welcoming feel, attractive surroundings, and leading academic environment.
The South Korean capital has this year climbed six places in the QS Best Student Cities index, placing fourth overall. Known as a 24/7 kind of city, it perhaps unsurprisingly gets its strongest rating for nightlife, while also scoring well for ease of getting round and arts and culture. Respondents praise the city for its diversity of activities and opportunities, while also emphasizing safety and convenience. Seoul also claims the strongest overall score in the “staying after graduation” category, with a high percentage of respondents saying they planned to stay on after their studies, or had already done so.
=8. Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe (Keihanshin)
Though Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe are separate cities in their own right, their combined metropolitan area – equivalent to the world’s 16th largest economy – is known under the collective term Keihanshin. With a combined population of more than 19 million, these sister cities get their strongest rating for arts and culture, followed by ease of getting around and tolerance. Students praise the balance of urban life and beautiful natural surrounds, relishing opportunities to explore the area’s rich history and traditions while enjoying a modern student lifestyle.
Taiwan’s capital gets its strongest score for friendliness, with an almost equally high rating for affordability. In fact, it claims the strongest student rating in the index for affordability – a category in which students are, unsurprisingly, particularly reluctant to award high scores! Students are also full of praise for its convenient transport system, cheap and delicious food, and friendly locals.
A special mention also goes to:
- Riyadh – highest-rated for employment opportunities;
- Vienna – top for arts and culture;
- Canberra – the friendliest city according to students;
- Brisbane – the number one student city for diversity;
- Nanjing – highest-rated for tolerance and inclusion;
- Oslo – number one for ease of getting around.
Want to rate your own student city? Complete our short survey, and help create next year’s edition of the QS Best Student Cities index.