What Makes a Top Student City? | Top Universities

What Makes a Top Student City?

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Staff Writer

Updated Mar 05, 2016



What Makes a Top Student City? main image

How is it possible to pick out the world's best cities for students? Find out what information was used to create QS's new ranking.

There are many intangible things that might make you love your student city: from atmosphere and location to the friends that you make and the kind of interests you pursue.

Not all of these things can be measured, and this ranking is intended as a useful starting point, not a definitive guide to which student city will make you happiest. To a large extent, that depends on who you are and what you like.

However, there are also several factors that go towards making a great student city that can be measured, and will inevitably have an impact on your decision-making process.

Does it have top-class universities? Is there a high proportion of students? Does it attract students from all over the world? Does it have a high quality of living? Is it targeted by employers? Can I afford it?

QS Best Student Cities sets out to help you answer these questions. Below are details of how we have gone about doing so.

QS Best Student Cities: Methodology

QS Best Student Cities 2012 is calculated based on 12 criteria, which are divided into five main categories:

1. Rankings

This category measures the number and quality of universities in each city by looking at their performance in the QS World University Rankings. The indicators have been designed to take into account the variety of internationally recognised universities found in large cities, as well as lending recognition to the locations of the world’s elite institutions.

Institution Count: Score based on a straight count of the number of ranked institutions in the city.

Indexed Score: Score based on the collective performance of all institutions in the city. Points are awarded for each institution depending on what range they fall in.

Top Score: Score based on the position of the highest placed institution from the city.

2. Student Mix

This category is designed to look at the student make-up of the city, both overall and from an international perspective. Cities with higher proportions of students are likely to be better equipped with the facilities they need, while those with high numbers of international students are more likely to have the facilities to welcome more.

Student Population: A simple score based on the number of students at ranked institutions as a proportion of the city’s population.

International Volume: A score based on the total number of international students attracted to the city and studying at ranked institutions.

International Ratio: A score based on the total number of international students as a proportion of all students studying at ranked institutions in the city.

3. Quality of Living

This measure is based on the results of the Mercer Quality of Living Survey 2011, which ranks the top 50 cities based on ten criteria:

-    Political and social environment
-    Economic environment
-    Socio-cultural environment
-    Health and sanitation
-    Schools and education
-    Public services and transportation
-    Recreation
-    Consumer goods
-    Housing
-    Natural environment

Since Mercer only lists 50 world cities, those not listed are automatically assigned a minimum of half the available points.

4. Employer Reputation

This category measures the reputation of a city’s graduates among graduate employers, using the results of the QS Global Recruiter Survey 2011. Employers were asked to identify the universities from which they prefer to recruit graduates. The results are based on over 18,000 responses worldwide.

Domestic Employer Popularity: A score based on the number of domestic employers who identified at least one institution in the city as producing excellent graduates.

International Employer Popularity [x2]: A score based on the weighted count of international employers who identified at least one institution in the city as producing excellent graduates. Since all our work is focused on international students and opportunities for mobility, this indicator carries twice the weight of the domestic alternative.

5. Affordability

As costs associated with a university degree rise, affordability is one of the key issues for prospective students, particularly those who are considering studying abroad. This category is broken into three sections to cover three key areas of student expenditure: tuition fees, retail costs, and living costs.

Tuition Fees [x2]: Usually the most substantial outlay, particularly for an international student, global trends suggest that tuition fees are likely to play an increasing role in shaping international student mobility over the next ten years. This carries twice the weight of the other two affordability indicators.

Big Mac Index: A score based on the well-known index of retail pricing in cities worldwide, compiled and published by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Mercer Cost of Living Index: A score based on the Mercer index, which ranks the most (and least) expensive cities for expatriates based on currency fluctuations and comparative price movements.

Hong Kong is a great example of why two cost indices have been selected. In Hong Kong, property is at a premium but food is inexpensive. Hong Kong places as the world’s 9th most expensive city in the Mercer index but is the second cheapest country in the Big Mac Index. The two working together form a more balanced guide for students.