What is the World's Best Student City? | Top Universities

What is the World's Best Student City?

By Staff Writer

Updated March 5, 2016 Updated March 5, 2016

Where is the best city in the world to be a student? The QS Best Student Cities Ranking aims to find out the answer.

But how do you decide on what makes a city good for students? Surely that depends on what you’re studying, who you are, and what you like? 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. Of course not all of these things can be measured.

However, there are also several more easily measureable factors that will inevitably have an impact on your choice of study destination. 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 good quality of living? Is it targeted by employers? Can I afford it?

QS Best Student Cities sets out to help you answer these questions by ranking the 50 most student-friendly cities in the world, based on 12 criteria. Whereas university rankings tend to focus on criteria such as research and staffing levels, for this exercise we have chosen five key areas that speak directly to the needs of international students: the ranking performance of local universities, student mix, quality of living, employer activity, and affordability.

Below are our top five student cities. Check out the top 50 best student cities >

1. Study in Paris, France

Unlike London and Boston, Paris does not have a global top 30 university, so it may come as a surprise to some that it ranks as the top city in the world for international students. But consider this: Paris has 16 of the world’s top 700 universities, comfortably more than any other city on the planet; international tuition fees are a fraction of those in the UK, Australia and North America; situated in the heart of Europe, Parisian graduates are targeted by a vast range of employers throughout the continent; and perhaps most importantly for students, all of this takes place in one of the most historic, culturally vital and beautiful cities imaginable.

2. Study in London, UK

With Imperial and UCL ranked among the world’s top ten universities, alongside LSE, which makes the top five for social sciences, perhaps only Boston can rival London’s credentials as a nerve-centre of global academia. World-class facilities such as the British Library, with one of the most extensive and important collections of books and manuscripts in the world, make London a magnet for students and researchers from all over the planet. Yet London also offers far more to students as a city: one of the world’s great centres of culture and creativity, famed for its nightlife and diversity. London won't leave you wanting.

3. Study in Boston, USA

Boston’s cluster of historic universities has earned it the nickname, ‘The Athens of America’. With Harvard and MIT ranked numbers two and three in the world and Boston University also in the global top 100, Boston/Cambridge scores predictably highly in the ranking indicator, but also ranks well for student mix, quality of living, and employer activity. The only major drawback is costs – the ticket prices at Harvard and MIT approach a gobsmacking US$50,000 per year, though in reality needs-blind admission and generous financial aid packages mean that many students pay significantly less than this.

4. Study in Melbourne, Australia

Found three times to be the world’s most liveable city according to an annual survey by The Economist, a UNESCO city of literature, and home to the world’s first ever feature film, Melbourne is Australia’s cultural hub. With six global top 500 universities in a population of just over 4 million the city also has a high concentration of students for its size. The current strength of the Australian dollar means all of the nation’s cities suffer in the affordability weighting, based on the Mercer and Big Mac cost indices alongside international tuition fees. However, take away the affordability score and Melbourne would finish above Paris, London and Boston, suggesting that, for those for whom it is a financial possibility, Melbourne provides just about the most favourable study environment around.

5. Study in Vienna, Austria

Frequently ranked as one of the world’s most liveable cities and with some of the lowest tuition fees around for international students, Vienna is also home to Austria’s two highest-ranked universities, Universität Wien and Technische Universität Wien. With just two universities in the QS World University Rankings, the highest of which is Universität Wien at 155, Vienna may not be able to compete with the likes of London and Boston for those looking for world-class universities. However for students looking for high quality of living combined with culture and affordability, Vienna is pretty hard to beat.


This article was originally published in November 2012 . It was last updated in March 2016

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