Some African cities attractive for studying abroad, but ...

Three African cities, Cape Town, Cairo, and Johannesburg (in this order) are among the top 100 student-friendly cities for studying abroad, according to the 10th edition of the QS Best Student Cities Ranking 2023.

According to the rankings that were released in London on 29 June 2022, Cape Town in South Africa was ranked the best city in Africa. It was placed in 78th position overall, gaining six slots since the previous index.

Cairo, the Egyptian capital, that placed 94th in the world, is the second-best student city on the African continent, breaking into the 100 top cities for the first time. In the ninth ranking, Cairo was in 109th position.

Johannesburg in South Africa was the only other African city that featured in the top ranking, placing 97th. The city dropped five slots since the ninth edition.

Student diversity increased

According to Simona Bizzozero, the director of communications at QS Quacquarelli Symonds, which provides services, analytics, and insights into trends in the global higher education sector, Cape Town scored highly because of its affordable living and study expenses.

“Cape Town has made great improvement on diversity in its student population … the city scored 54.6% and was placed 82nd globally in the student mix indicator,” Bizzozero told University World News. The student-mix indicator assesses the diversity and scale of a city’s student body.

In terms of affordability, Bizzozero said Cape Town scored 58.2%, placing among the top 30 globally, although it declined marginally in that metric from the previous rankings.

Among all the African cities, Cape Town achieved the best scores in student mix, desirability and student voice in terms of whether former students would recommend it to their peers, Bizzozero said.

Johannesburg tops affordability

Johannesburg achieved a high score for its growing and diversifying student population and ranked the most affordable in Africa. The city recorded a world-class result in the affordability metric by scoring 67.9% and was placed 13th in the world in this indicator.

Cairo enjoyed the highest score in Africa according to the employer-activity indicator, a fact that suggests that the city has the strongest employment prospects in the region for its graduates.

Commenting on the performance of the African cities in those rankings, Ben Sowter, the QS Quacquarelli Symonds’ senior vice president, said Cairo and Cape Town have shown marked progress in this year’s rankings by improving diversity and affordability at a global level.

“But the number and quality of its universities hold Africa back, and now the focus must be placed on enhancing the quality of higher education on the continent,” Sowter said during a briefing on 29 June.

QS Quacquarelli Symonds ranks cities with a population of at least 250,000, and with at least two universities placing in the QS World University Rankings. According to Sowter, the ranking offers a view into the sentiments of both prospective and former students, measured through data gained from 98,000 survey responses.

Affordability becoming a greater barrier

Highlighting the importance of those rankings, Sowter explained that the world’s cities are generally becoming less affordable for students, with about 90% declining in this crucial indicator. The QS Best Student Cities Ranking 2023 ranked 140 cities. Altogether, 58 improved from the previous ranking, six remained stable, but 46 declined. There were 30 new entries.

The top 10-best cities globally that are attractive to students in the current index are, in order of preference, London (UK), Munich (Germany), Seoul (South Korea), Zurich (Switzerland), Melbourne (Australia), and Berlin (Germany). Others were Tokyo (Japan), Paris (France), Sydney (Australia) and Edinburgh (Scotland). With 55 cities in the ranking, Europe appears to be the most coveted destination for studying abroad, while African cities are the least attractive.