Paris beats London for second year running in student city stakes

High tuition fees and cost of living have lost London the top place in the QS Best Student Cities Index for the second year in a row, while North American cities fare less well than those in Europe, the Far East and Australia.

The highest placed North American city is Boston, in eighth place after Singapore (3), Sydney (4), Melbourne and Zurich (joint 5), and Hong Kong (7). Montreal is ranked ninth and Munich tenth.

The QS Best Student Cities index rates cities with two or more globally-ranked universities based on 14 criteria in five categories: university rankings, student mix, quality of living, employer activity and affordability.

Each city receives a score out of 100 in each category, adding up to an overall ranking of the world’s best cities for students.

Paris versus London

Paris has 17 universities ranked by QS – one fewer than London, which has the most.

Paris’ high living costs are offset by relatively low tuition costs, high quality of life and a thriving student community. Graduates from the French capital’s universities are in high demand among both local and international recruiters.

In contrast, while its universities perform strongly in the global league table, London is let down by the affordability rating partly because of high tuition fees in comparison with Paris, given that it is not a cheaper place to live. London is also ranked lower for quality of living than the other top five cities.

It does receive the highest score in the rankings category of the index, with 18 ranked institutions, including two within the world’s top 10.

London also does well for employer activity and student mix and remains one of the world’s most popular student cities, offering an impressive range of world-leading educational facilities within a buzzing hub of culture, nightlife and international diversity, according to QS.

Rest of the top 10

In third position, Singapore reflects the increasingly strong performance of Far East universities in many areas.

The city state rises nine places since the exercise was last carried out in February 2012, reflecting its growing reputation as one of the world’s greatest student cities, despite having just two ranked universities – the minimum requirement for inclusion.

Singapore’s improvement is exceeded by Hong Kong – in seventh place – up 12 places since the last best student cities index. It offers relatively low daily living expenses and seven leading educational institutes, three of which rank among the top 40 universities in the world.

Australia also does well, with Sydney just ahead of Melbourne. Quality of living and high scores in all categories except affordability (average tuition costs are higher than in London, although lower than in many US cities). Melbourne loses out to Sydney because of a slightly lower quality of living score, although this is still higher than either Paris or London.

In addition to Paris and London, Europe is represented in the top 10 by Zurich and Munich.

In fifth place, Zurich has moved up two places and scores almost top marks for quality of living and the best score in the top five for affordability, which it achieves by combining high living expenses with relatively low tuition fees.

Munich has climbed three places to tenth, displacing Berlin and scoring well for quality of living and getting the highest score within the top 10 for affordability, thanks to minimal tuition fees.

In North America, Boston slumps from third to eighth place this year, despite including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in its catchment area. Montreal climbs one place to ninth, scoring highly for student mix and its top-rated universities.


The measures in detail:
  • • University rankings draw on the performance of universities in the ranked cities in the QS World University Rankings.
  • • Student mix is a measure of the relative size and diversity of the student population.
  • • Quality of living is based on the 2011 Mercer Quality of Living Survey, with the cities it does not assess given a minimum of half the available points in lieu of further data which QS has requested.
  • • Employer activity is based on employers’ responses to the employability of a city’s institutions.
  • • Affordability measures tuition fees and cost of living through the Big Mac Index A compiled and published by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Mercer Cost of Living Index.
The full top 50 can be seen here.


Good! They deserve this as punishment for not supporting the future generation.

Christopher Weir on the University World News Facebook page