Student News

Revealed: the best student cities in the world

The latest QS Best Student Cities rankings are out, and you might be surprised at which UK cities make the cut!

best student cities in the world

London has finished top of an official ranking of the world's best student cities – despite scoring poorly on affordability.

The rankings reveal the top 100 cities around the world to live in as a student, with past winners including Paris and Montreal.

The QS higher education group released the Best Student City rankings to contrast with other surveys which focus on the quality of individual institutions.

The survey measures factors including diversity of culture, quality of life, academic performance, number of top universities in the city, and the local jobs market, as well as the cost of living.

Why is London the best student city?

is london a good place to study

Despite the high prices in England’s capital, there is a lot to love – especially for the many students who are going out and experiencing the world on their own for the first time.

Students have access to an almost unfair number of cultural activities in London. From the traditional theatre, museums, cinemas, and restaurants to more unusual cultural activities and hobbies – you name it, and London will probably have it.

London is also home to the highest concentration of world-class universities globally, including Imperial College London, University College London, London School of Economics and King’s College London. UCL, LSE, and Imperial College all featured in the top 10 in the UK university rankings 2018/19.

Respondents also say England’s capital has very high levels of tolerance and diversity. It celebrates cultures and nationalities from around the world, meaning international students are less likely to feel isolated.

Looking to the future, London’s job offerings are second-to-none. Many students who study there stay on in the capital to get jobs afterwards, alongside graduates from all over the country who flock to the city for its jobs market.

Ben Sowter, research director at QS, said:

The 2018 ranking highlights the enduring quality of the student experience available in London.

The city benefits from outstanding employment prospects, more world-class universities than any other city, and enviable lifestyle opportunities.

How do students afford to live in London?

how to afford to live as a student in london

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Unfortunately, London falls down on its cost of living score, putting some students off.

With university tuition fees now over £9,000/year, the prospect of paying the London premium for accommodation and general living could outweigh the desirability of living in the city.

UK students studying in London can receive higher maintenance loans, but often this is still not enough to cover the extortionate prices. Often students borrow money from other sources on top of their government loan, just to make ends meet.

While there are a lot more factors to consider than cost when choosing university accommodation, London is by far the priciest place to afford rent, with average student digs costing £222 per week. This is a long way off the average weekly rent of £71 for students in Northern Ireland.

Which other UK student cities made the top 100?

best student cities in the uk

When filtered by country, the best UK cities for students are mainly in the Midlands or the North.

Student cityUK rankGlobal rank
London11
Edinburgh216
Manchester324
Glasgow443
Coventry544
Nottingham647
Birmingham751
Aberdeen855
Newcastle Upon Tyne956
Brighton1092

Despite Britain’s impending EU exit, Edinburgh and Manchester appear alongside London in the top 25, placing at 16th and 24th respectively.

Scotland has three cities in the global top 100: Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. Other than London, only Brighton represented the south, ranking 92nd in the overall rankings.

The Higher Education Policy Institute found that international students are worth £20bn a year to the UK’s economy, with London contributing to £4.6bn of that. Sheffield the biggest beneficiary of international students in proportion to its local economy.

But Brexit looks like it could have an impact on international student numbers in the UK.

According to the International Student Survey, which received 67,000 responses from prospective applicants, 39% of EU students think Brexit has made them less interested in studying in the UK.

Cited reasons included the fact that Brexit will likely make the UK more expensive to live in, and potentially not very welcoming to EU students.

Which are the best cities in the world to study in?

best student cities in the world

In direct contrast to London, the top cities for affordability are Budapest (Hungary) and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), although neither made the top 25 overall. In fact, the highest rated UK city for affordability was Aberdeen, and even that only ranked at 47th for the measure.

Student cityGlobal rank
London1
Tokyo2
Melbourne3
Montreal4
Paris5
Munich6
Berlin7
Zurich8
Sydney9
Seoul10

Tokyo came second and is particularly celebrated for its “desirability” as a city – a measure that accounts for factors such as safety, pollution and quality of living.

Interestingly, no US cities appeared in the top 10, even though American universities dominate QS' most recent ranking of universities by graduate employability. The only cities in the top 30 were Boston in 14th and New York in 18th.

A lot of European cities placed towards the top of the table too, including Paris, Munich, Berlin, Zurich, Amsterdam, and Prague.

Australia did well in the city rankings this year, with Melbourne in third, Sydney in ninth, Brisbane in 21st and Canberra in 22nd. It scored particularly highly in being outward looking and also allowing students to mix.

As an already popular place for UK students to go and study, you can jump on the bandwagon by checking out this guide to studying in Australia.

How do you feel about the city you’re studying in? Did it deserve a place in the rankings? Do you even need to be in a city at all to have the best student years? Let us know!

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