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Study Abroad

Best student cities in the world 2022

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, westminster abbey and big ben in 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 – especially 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.

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

What are the QS Student City rankings?

globe with someone working on a laptop in the background

Credit: Brian A Jackson – Shutterstock

The annual QS World University Rankings are considered one the most widely read and authoritative education rankings out there, and 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?

skyline of London with London bridge in the middle

Drumroll, please... The best student city in the world for 2022 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 high 80s and 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, England
  2. Munich, Germany
  3. Seoul, South Korea
  4. Tokyo, Japan
  5. Berlin, Germany
  6. Melbourne, Australia
  7. Zurich, Switzerland
  8. Sydney, Australia
  9. Boston, USA
  10. Montreal, Canada
  11. Paris, France
  12. Edinburgh, Scotland
  13. Toronto, Canada
  14. Vienna, Austria
  15. Hong Kong SAR, Hong Kong
  16. New York, USA
  17. Singapore, Singapore
  18. Vancouver, Canada
  19. Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe, Japan
  20. Lausanne, Switzerland.

London gets top marks for its high-quality universities but also scores highly for student experience. If you fancy studying abroad, second-place Munich has top-notch 'desirability' as a city and is a lot cheaper than London.

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

A lot of European cities placed towards the top of the table too, including Berlin, where you can do a free Masters course.

Australia also did well in the city rankings, with Melbourne in sixth and Sydney in eighth place. It scored particularly highly for having a diverse mix of students and strong desirability.

Already a popular place for UK students to go and study, you can jump on the bandwagon by checking out this 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

Calton Hill viewpoint in Edinburgh

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 (12th)
  3. Glasgow (28th)
  4. Manchester (30th)
  5. Coventry (42nd)
  6. Newcastle Upon Tyne (43rd)
  7. Birmingham (46th)
  8. Bristol (52nd)
  9. Nottingham (63rd)
  10. Sheffield (59th).

* World ranking is shown in brackets.

Despite London taking the top spot, the majority of the best UK cities for students are in the North and the Midlands – conveniently also ranked the best places in the UK for nightlife. The UK's second-biggest city, Birmingham – with five universities and over 80,000 students – came in seventh place, beaten by big northern cities such as Manchester and Glasgow.

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

This shows that the UK's cities are still considered an appealing option for international students – the International Student Survey 2021, which received 105,000 responses from prospective applicants, found that 58% of international students believe the UK is becoming more welcoming to students from abroad.

Nonetheless, the majority of EU students feel Brexit has negatively affected their interest in studying in the UK. Cited reasons included the fact that Brexit made the UK more expensive to study in as tuition fees for EU students have been raised, as well as the need to apply for a visa.

Cheapest student cities in the world

green piggy bank wearing graduation cap

One of the biggest considerations for students when it comes to choosing somewhere 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. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (31st)
  2. Kazan, Russia (102nd)
  3. Novosibirsk, Russia (107th)
  4. Athens, Greece (76th)
  5. Johannesburg, South Africa (92nd)
  6. Tomsk, Russia (85th)
  7. Bangalore, India (110th)
  8. Budapest, Hungary (58th)
  9. Vilnius, Lithuania (102nd)
  10. Hsinchu, Taiwan (72nd).

* 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 – none of the cheapest cities feature in the overall top 30.

If you're looking to stay at home, the best UK city for affordability is Aberdeen (67th in the overall rankings).

If you're not sure about studying, why not take a gap year instead? These are the best gap year destinations for travelling on a shoestring budget. 

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