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Study Abroad

Best student cities in the world 2023

From London to New York, Sydney to Paris, which city is officially the best to live in as a student? We'll reveal them all...

tokyo tower on the left, London on the right

Credit: Blue Planet Studio (left), Bucchi Francesco (right) – Shutterstock

While choosing a good university for your course is essential when deciding where to study or do a year abroad, the city you choose to live in is pretty important too. This is especially the case as you could end up getting a graduate job there when you're finished.

Whether you're after a city with good nightlife or a place with plenty of job opportunities, making the right choice is crucial.

Which cities are best for students? The annual QS Student City rankings have the lowdown.

What are the QS Student City rankings?

The annual QS World University Rankings are considered among the most widely read and authoritative education rankings out there. Back in 2014, they also started releasing an annual Student Cities Ranking.

Every year they list over 100 cities that offer the best student experience, based on a number of factors:

  • University rankings – The quality and number of institutions in that city
  • Student mix – The number of students in the city, particularly international students
  • Desirability – How appealing a city is perceived to be, based on things like safety and opportunities available
  • Employer activity – Whether top graduate employers tend to recruit students from the city
  • Affordability – Based on the cost of tuition fees and living costs
  • Student view – The experiences of other students living in that city, collected via an annual survey.

While other surveys and rankings tend to focus on the best individual universities, the Student Cities rankings look at the bigger picture and rank cities based on the overall student experience.

In the past, winners have included Paris and Montreal. But which is the latest city to come out on top?

What is the world's best student city?

London

Drumroll, please... The best student city in the world for 2023 is London!

With an overall score of 100, London has secured the number one spot since 2018. The only factor London scored relatively low for is affordability, but it received scores in the 90s for all other ranking indicators.

Best student cities in the world

Here's the complete top 20 list of the best student cities in the world:

  1. London, United Kingdom
  2. Munich, Germany
  3. Seoul, South Korea
  4. Zurich, Switzerland
  5. Melbourne, Australia
  6. Berlin, Germany
  7. Tokyo, Japan
  8. Paris, France
  9. Sydney, Australia
  10. Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  11. Boston, USA
  12. Hong Kong SAR, Hong Kong
  13. Singapore, Singapore
  14. Montreal, Canada
  15. Toronto, Canada
  16. Vienna, Austria
  17. Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe, Japan
  18. New York, USA
  19. Lausanne, Switzerland
  20. Vancouver, Canada.

London gets top marks for its high-quality universities but also scores highly for student view. If you fancy studying abroad, second-place Munich has top-notch 'desirability' as a city and is a lot cheaper than London. Seoul shares the second place, having one of the best scores for employer activity.

Interestingly, only two US cities appear in the top 20. That's despite American universities dominating the QS ranking of universities by graduate employability.

A lot of European cities are placed towards the top of the table too. This includes Berlin, where you can do a free master's course.

Australia also did well in the city rankings, with Melbourne in fifth and Sydney in ninth place. It scored particularly highly for having a diverse mix of students. If you're interested in going to uni there, read our guide to studying in Australia.

Fees for international students aren't always cheap. But, you could consider doing a year abroad instead.

Best student cities in the UK

As you probably noticed, London and Edinburgh are the only UK cities to make the global top 20. But that doesn't mean they're the only cities in the country to be considered some of the best.

Here are the 10 best student cities in the UK*:

  1. London (1st)
  2. Edinburgh (10th)
  3. Glasgow (25th)
  4. Manchester (25th)
  5. Coventry (40th)
  6. Newcastle Upon Tyne (42nd)
  7. Birmingham (45th)
  8. Bristol (49th)
  9. Nottingham (50th)
  10. Leeds (56th).

* World ranking is shown in brackets.

Despite London taking the top spot, a lot of the best UK cities for students are in the North and the Midlands. A couple of them conveniently also ranked among the best places in the UK for nightlife.

The UK's second-biggest city, Birmingham came in seventh (45th in the world). It was beaten by big northern cities such as Manchester and Newcastle.

Across the border, Scotland has three cities in the global top 100: Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

Cheapest student cities in the world

piggy bank wearing graduation cap

One of the biggest considerations for students when choosing where to study or do a year abroad is the cost. A city might be amazing, but if you can't afford to pay your rent or have a social life, it's not going to be much fun.

Filtering the cities by affordability, these are the top ten cheapest cities for students*:

  1. Baku, Azerbaijan (126th)
  2. Ankara, Turkey (77th)
  3. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (28th)
  4. Istanbul, Turkey (52nd)
  5. Iasi, Romania (137th)
  6. Surabaya, Indonesia (126th)
  7. Timisoara, Romania (131st)
  8. Bandung, Indonesia (120th)
  9. Jakarta, Indonesia (124th)
  10. Almaty, Kazakhstan (75th) / Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan (92nd)

* Overall ranking is shown in brackets.

If you're looking to live as cheaply as possible, you'll have to sacrifice some of the other factors which make cities so student-friendly. The only city that also ranks in the overall top 30 is Kuala Lumpur.

If you're looking to stay at home, the best UK city for affordability is Aberdeen (68th in the overall rankings).

If you're not sure about studying, why not take a gap year instead? Here are some great gap year ideas to get you inspired.

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