QS Best Student Cities 2018: Highlights

London has been named as the top location in the world for students, after replacing Montreal at the top of the QS Best Student Cities ranking.

This edition of the ranking placed London top for the first time. It has more ranked institutions than any of the 100 cities in the exercise and performed well in QS’s survey of over 50,000 students.

Perhaps the most dramatic move in the 2018 ranking is Tokyo’s rise from sixth to second place, beating its previous high of 3rd place. It was the city that led our Employer Activity indicator, and, were it in possession of a more diverse student population, may have led the table.

There are six elements to the ranking: the performance of a city’s universities in QS rankings; the proportion of students and their international diversity; quality of life; employer activity; affordability; and the student view of the quality of their experience and willingness to remain in the city after graduating.

Melbourne has moved up to third place, from fifth in 2017, while Zurich has entered the top 10 in eighth place. No US city appears in the top 10, following declines in their scores for affordability, employer activity and student mix: the best American entrant is Boston (13th, down five places). Australia and Germany retain their status as particularly desirable nations, with two top-ten cities each.

Although dropping to fourth place – losing the global ascendancy it enjoyed last year – Montreal remains the students’ favourite, while Toronto is deemed the most desirable city from quality of life surveys and figures for crime and pollution. Budapest is ranked top for affordability, just ahead of Kuala Lumpur.

Other recent surveys have suggested that students’ perception of a university’s location is playing an increasingly important part in the process of choosing where to study. A favourable rating is also important to the cities concerned – a recent study from the Higher Education Policy Institute estimated that international students are worth £4.64 billion a year to London.

London has two universities in the top 10 of the QS World University Rankings and 18 in all. Ben Sowter, who heads the QS Intelligence Unit, which produces the ranking, said: “London benefits from outstanding employment prospects, more world-class universities than any other city, and enviable lifestyle opportunities. These factors mean that it remains a great place to study despite eye-watering costs, as our student survey made clear.”

To qualify for the ranking, cities must have a population of at least 250,000 and contain a minimum of two ranked universities. New entrants to the ranking this year include Stuttgart, Dubai, Cape Town, Graz, Nagoya, Brighton and Miami.




Higher Education World, June 2018: Foreword

When the first QS World University Rankings (QSWUR) were published in 2004, sceptics were surprised that as many as 29 countries were represented among a total of 200 institutions. The 15th edition, released this month, contains 1,000 universities for the first time, hailing from no fewer than 85 countries.

This edition of Higher Education World focuses mainly on that landmark edition, which is headed once again by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: a record-breaking seventh consecutive year at number-one. We examine the changes the ranking has seen and the shifts in international higher education it has reflected.

A university’s position in the QSWUR has become an important consideration for prospective international students. But the location of that university also plays a big part in most students’ selection process. We focus, too, on the QS Best Student Cities ranking, which is topped for the first time by London.

By no means everything a student values is ranked, however. Our final topic in this edition is the QS International Student Survey: a report which charts the views of 28,000 young people considering higher education overseas, with the United Kingdom among their options. Up-to-date technology is their top priority, followed closely by the quality of the teaching staff. Most wanted lecturers who were passionate about their subject and a qualification that would boost their career prospects.

Jack Moran
Public Relations Executive
QS Quacquarelli Symonds


Paris named world’s best student city once again

The City of Light is still the world’s best place to be a student. Paris has won the QS Best Student Cities ranking for 2014 with 417 points from a possible 500, just two more than London.

The QS Best Student Cities ranking measures cities with at least two world ranked universities, on a range of criteria. It looks at how highly-ranked its universities are, how international its student body is, at its quality of life, at its affordability, and at how enthusiastic employers are about hiring the graduates from its institutions. We collect data on 98 cities, and publish the top 50.

This is the second time we have analysed student cities in this way, and Paris and London have been first and second both times. While London has the largest number of world-ranked universities and a more international student community, Paris is a lot more affordable as a place to study.

Employers, we find, are keen on both Paris and London, but their favourite destination is Singapore. The island state is third in this ranking, partly because of its high standard of living as well as its recruiter-friendliness. Next are Sydney, with a very high standard of living, and Melbourne, top worldwide for the size and diversity of its student body. The rest of the top 10 include one more Asian entry, from Hong Kong, two from continental Europe, Zurich and Munich, and two from North America. These are the Boston/Cambridge conurbation, home to Harvard, MIT and other top institutions, and Montreal.

Of the five measures used to draw up this ranking, three come from the data used in the main QS World University Rankings. The institution rankings score comes from the number of ranked institutions in each city, their average position, and the standing of the top-rated university. The student mix measure is based on the percentage of students in the city’s population and the share of them from overseas. And the employer activity measure makes use of the exclusive QS survey of national and global employers to discover the cities from which they most like to recruit.

Of the other two measures we use, quality of living comes from a world survey carried out by Mercer, the global business information specialists, and data from GaWC, a world city survey produced by Loughborough University in the UK. Vienna is the winner on this measure.

Finally, our affordability indicator combines two things a potential student needs to know. The first is the average level of tuition fees, and this is weighted especially highly in the calculation. Then we add three lower-weighted elements to capture the essentials of student life: Mercer’s city cost of living index; the Economist Intelligence Unit’s celebrated Big Mac index, reflecting perhaps the reality of student consumption; and the price of an iPad, collected in cities around the world by Commsec, part of Commonwealth Bank in Australia. It turns out that Argentina has the world’s priciest iPads, despite which Buenos Aires, 33 in our table, is by no means one of the dearest of our top 50 cities. Malaysia is the cheapest place to buy one, and partly as a result, Kuala Lumpur is indeed the lowest-cost student city in the table.

This ranking does contain some surprises, such as the absence of Cambridge (UK), which is home to only one ranked university. And while some of the top 10 succeed partly through having a large number of good universities (Paris, London, Boston and Hong Kong among them), Munich, Zurich and Singapore have only two each, both regarded very highly. The table also shows that while Munich and Zurich both enjoy high living standards, Munich is far more affordable.