Montreal pips Paris in global ‘best student city’ ranking

There is something about the French that appeals to students, it seems. Though there are proportionately few major French-speaking cities, Montreal topped this year’s QS Best Student Cities ranking, knocking Paris into second place after five years at the top.

“Montreal’s success is the latest of a series of propitious signs for a city beginning to escape a period of economic stagnation, following positive growth forecasts for 2017, and the recent announcement of its selection as the ‘World’s Most Intelligent City’,” said QS in a statement.

The mostly French-speaking Canadian city moved up from number seven last year. “Its first place ranking is also the highlight of a series of positive performances from Canadian cities: four of the country’s five ranked cities improve their position.”

The QS Best Student Cities ranking published on Wednesday 15 February analysed 125 cities and for the first time included a ‘student view’ indicator based on a survey of 18,000 international students.

Some findings

The drop by Paris to second place after a five-year run as the world’s best student city was due to a reduced rank for ‘affordability’ and for ‘desirability’.

London came in third place, rising from number five last year, followed by Seoul at number four (up from 10), Melbourne at five, Berlin at six (up from nine), Tokyo at seven (down from three), Boston at eight (up from 13), Munich at nine (up from 11) and Vancouver in 10th place (up from 13).

“Australia’s high cost of living and tuition fees are proving disadvantageous: all of its seven ranked cities drop, with Sydney plummeting from fourth to 13th, and Melbourne falling from second to fifth,” said QS Quacquarelli Symonds, which describes itself as a global provider of higher education and careers information.

Aside from Sydney, the other city to drop out of the top 10 this year was Singapore, down from six last year to 14 this year.

“The results suggest that United Kingdom cities remain excellent study destinations in the face of Brexit, with rises in QS’s ‘affordability’ indicator a major contributor to all eight of its ranked cities improving their rank,” said the London-based company.

This was due to a drop in the value of the pound following the Brexit vote. Edinburgh was the second most popular student city in the UK, rising from 33 last year to 18 this year, followed by Manchester, which climbed 13 places to 23.

“Affordability issues have a converse, adverse effect on American cities: though Boston (eight) breaks into the top 10, 10 of its 12 ranked cities drop.”


For the first time QS included a ‘student view’ indicator. “Over 18,000 students responded to QS’s inaugural survey for this ranking, providing input about their own student experiences and, for prospective students, the relative desirability of a city,” said QS.

“Based on a combination of inputs including the proportion of respondents that wished to stay in their city of study after graduation, the quality of social and cultural experience offered, and levels of tolerance and inclusion, Ottawa was ranked the leading city for the ‘student view’ indicator, closely followed by Prague and Shanghai.”
The categories of indicators used, given equal weighting, were:
  • • University rankings – reflects the collective performance of a city’s universities in the QS World University Rankings®. The indicators “relate to magnetism of the large numbers of universities found in large cities, as well as lending recognition to the locations of the world’s elite institutions”.

  • • Student mix – the student make-up of the city, with indicators being student population, international student volume and ratio, and ‘tolerance and inclusion’. “Cities with higher proportions of students are likely to be better equipped with the facilities students need, while areas with high numbers of international students are more likely to be well prepared to welcome even more.”

  • • Desirability – reflects the overall desirability of the city. This uses the Economist Liveability Index, Globalisation and World Cities Index, a safety score, a pollution score and a corruption score.

  • • Employer activity – indicates which cities are most highly sought among graduate employers. “Two of the indicators considered are based on QS’s annual international employer survey, which asks recruiters to identify the institutions they believe to be producing the best graduates in their sector.”

  • • Affordability –recognises the importance of affordability for most prospective students and families. A range of sources indicate how affordable a city is likely to be, including tuition fees, the Big Mac Index, iPad Index and Mercer Cost of Living Index.
London topped the ‘rankings’ category, Melbourne led in ‘student mix’, Toronto – ranked 11 overall – scored highest for ‘desirability’ and Tokyo was number one for ‘employer activity’. Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur, ranked 41 overall, came first for ‘affordability’.