Methodology

Two pre-requisites have been established to identify the cities evaluated in this exercise.

The first is that each city must have a population of over 250,000, the second that it must be home to at least two ranked institutions.

Current calculations suggest that 98 cities in the world qualify on this basis.

Indicators

The currently proposed methodology for the QS Best Student Cities Index features 14 indicators divided into five equally weighted categories.

In most cases the indicators are also weighted equally within each category, there are some exceptions where indicated.

Rankings

This category is intended to take a read of the collective performance of a city’s universities in the QS World University Rankings®. The indicators have been designed to take into account the magnetism of the large numbers universities found in large cities as well as lending recognition to the locations of the world’s elite institutions. All indicators in this category carry equal weight.

Institution Count
A score based on a straight count of the number of ranked institutions in the city.

Indexed Score
This indicator takes into account the collective performance of all institutions in the city, points are awarded for each institution depending on what range they fall according to the table to the right.

Top Score
Score based on the position of the highest placed institution from the city.

Range Points
1-10 100
11-25 50
26-50 30
51-100 20
101-200 10
201-300 5
301-400 3
401-500 2
501+ 1
Student Mix

This category is designed to look at the student make-up of the city, both overall and from an international perspective. Cities with higher proportions of students are likely to be better equipped with the facilities students need. Cities with high numbers of international students are more likely to have the facilities to welcome more.

Student Population
A simple score based on the number of students at ranked institutions as a proportion of the city’s population

International Volume
A score based on the total number of international students attracted to the city and studying at ranked institutions

International Volume [x2]
A score based on the total number of international students attracted to the city and studying at ranked institutions

International Ratio [x2]
A score based on the total number of international students as a proportion of all students studying at ranked institutions in the city

Quality of Living

Mercer Quality of Living [x3]
A score based on the results of the Mercer Quality of Living Survey 2011 – www.mercer.com/qualityoflivingpr#city-rankings.
Since Mercer only lists 50 world cities, those not listed are automatically assigned a minimum of half the available points (i.e. 50)

GaWC Score [x2]
A score based on the GaWC Index of global cities compiled at the University of Loughborough – http://www.lboro.ac.uk/gawc/index.html

Employer Activity

Domestic Employer Popularity
A score based on the number of domestic employers who identified at least one institution in the city as producing excellent graduates

International Employer Popularity [x4]
A score based on the weighted count of international employers who identified at least one institution in the city as producing excellent graduates. Since all our work is focused on international students and opportunities for mobility, this indicator carries twice the weight of the domestic alternative

Affordability

Tuition Fees [x2]
Usually the most substantial outlay for a student, particularly for an international student, global trends suggest that tuition fees are likely to play an increasing role in shaping international student mobility trends over the next ten years. This carries twice the weight of the other two affordability indicators.

Big Mac Index
A score based on the well-known index of retail pricing in cities worldwide, compiled and published by the Economist Intelligence Unit

IPad Index
A score based on the recent iPad Index compiled by Commsec

Mercer Cost of Living Index
Hong Kong is a great example of why two third-party indices of affordability have been selected. In Hong Kong, property is at a premium but food is inexpensive. Hong Kong places as the world’s 9th most expensive city in the Mercer index but is the second cheapest country in the Big Mac Index. The two working together form a more appropriate read for students

Compilation

Each indicator is converted into an ordinal by ranking the results and subtracting the rank of each result from the maximum. In some cases the underlying data is slightly reconfigured to ensure comparable application of weights (i.e. tuition fee values are organised into ranges). The resulting scores are combined with the advertised weights and scaled to the top performing city in the category to give a score with a maximum of 100 for each category, which are then summed to produce the final score out of a theoretical maximum of 500.

Presentation

The final table will be presented based on an overall score out of 100 with rank, score, country and city names and scores out of 100 in each of the five categories listed.

2015 Edition

This year’s edition has been released during the 11th QS-APPLE conference in Melbourne on November 27th.

You can find the full results on topuniversities.com