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Study abroad : Destination Guides

What are the best student cities in 2020?

Find out which cities were named the best for students this year.

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Where your university is located will hugely impact the type of study abroad experience you’re set to have. It’s hardly surprising considering you’ll want to explore more than just the library while you study abroad.


Taking into account a range of factors, the 2020 QS Best Student Cities ranking has outlined the best cities to study in worldwide. Thinking of studying abroad, but not sure where you want to go? Let our overview of the rankings provide you with some inspiration.


Global university rankings have long focused their attention on the standard of education, research and quality of teaching within institutions from around the world, but international students’ choices reflect a bigger picture. When choosing where to study abroad, students want world class education as well as great experiences offered by quality of living, culture and affordability of education.


Check out our video to see which cities came out on top!

Keep reading for more information on each destination...



London student city ranking

One of the world's great centres of culture and creativity, London offers an abundance of study and lifestyle options to any student. However, with a high cost of living, too much fun can prove costly. London is one of the world's most important financial centres, so is a land of opportunity for corporate-minded graduates. It is also one of the most important cities in the world for media and art lovers.


Highly ranked universities include University College London and London School of Economics and Political Science.

Tokyo student city ranking

Coming in at 2nd place, Tokyo is the perfect study destination for students who enjoy the hustle and bustle of a big city. As one of the worlds leading financial centres, this capital city offers plenty of work opportunities and chances to gain international experience. In fact, Tokyo places 1st for having the most sought-after students by graduate employers (QS Best Student Cities 2019). Top universities include The University of Tokyo and The Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Melbourne student city ranking

A popular city for many students around the world, Melbourne is consistently ranked as one of the world’s most liveable cities (The Economist). This south-Australian city is also known for its creativity and culture, offering students an exciting and unique study experience outside of lectures. Two of Melbourne’s seven universities place within the world’s top 100 institutions, reflecting the high quality of education. These leading institutions include The University of Melbourne and Monash University.

Munich student city ranking

As Germany is becoming more and more desirable for international students, partly because of low tuition costs, it’s no surprise to see a German city in the top 5. However, Munich has now overtaken Germany’s capital, Berlin, and climbed two places since last year. As an undergraduate student in a public university in Munich, you will not be expected to pay ANY tuition fees, regardless of your country of origin. If this doesn’t sway your decision, then maybe the nightlife, cost of living and distinctive culture in Munich will get you thinking about studying here.


According to QS World University Rankings (2020), two of the top institutions include The Technical University of Munich (55th) and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (63rd).

Berlin student city ranking

Berlin is often toted as one of the coolest cities in the world. With a flourishing cultural scene, the city is a major centre of design, fashion, music and art that rivals New York and London. Berlin, however, is still easily affordable on a student budget, whilst also being enough of a global financial centre to appeal to those more corporate-minded. Comfortably the most affordable city in the top ten, Berlin offers free tuition at public universities with a greater provision of courses in English for international students.


Top universities in Berlin include Humboldt University of Berlin and Freie Universitaet Berlin.


Montreal student city ranking

Montreal has been dubbed the cultural capital of Canada and enjoys a distinctly hybrid culture. The site of several major international festivals including the Montreal International Jazz Festival and the world's largest comedy festival, Just for Laughs, Montreal offers plenty of options for adventure to international students that grace its shores. Ranked as the best student city in North America, there are several world-leading institutions in Montreal including McGill University (35th) and The University of Montreal (137th).


Paris student city ranking

Situated in the heart of Europe, Paris is frequently rated as one of the most liveable cities in Europe. It is also one of the most historic, culturally vital and beautiful cities of the world: a perfect place to study! Home to 31 universities, Paris is an attractive choice for students from all over the world. You therefore have plenty of choice when it comes to browsing different types of institutions. Graduates also have the opportunity to develop contacts with businesses and employers from all across Europe.


Zurich student city ranking

Zurich is one of the wealthiest cities in Europe, with a reputation for being clean, safe and affluent. This provides students with a high quality of living, green streets and a secure city to study within. While living expenses can be high, tuition fees remain comparably lower than other leading study destinations such as the USA, Australia and the UK.  Students can also enjoy a balance of both city life and the surrounding nature while studying in Zurich.


Sydney student city ranking

Functioning as a key Australian financial hub, Sydney attracts thousands of international students every year. With the stunning panorama of Sydney Harbour, its famous opera house and glistening beaches, Sydney offers students the chance to finish up their class readings from some of the most renowned attractions on the planet. If you do decide to study in Australia, make sure you tick off a few of the 7 wonders of Australia which include Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef.


Highly ranked institutions include the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales.


Seoul student city ranking

An increasingly popular destination for students, Seoul ranks as the 10th best student city in the world. With three institutions ranking in the top 100 worldwide, this Asian capital offers prestigious universities as well as entertainment and beautiful scenery. If you’re looking for an authentic study experience, Seoul could be the perfect choice for you. Students can soak up the South Korean culture, learning about different traditions and local food while also enjoying the vibrant urban landscapes.


So, what do international students really want?

Student satisfaction is an ever-important factor for prospective students when choosing a university and this can be seen in the results of this survey. Despite the fact that a few of the top 10 cities are also home to world class universities, we can see that students’ study abroad preferences are significantly influenced by factors such as quality of life, affordability, job prospects and city culture ahead of university ranking.


Politicians and local business communities increasingly recognise the importance of students to the economies of student cities, whilst universities place particular focus on recruiting students internationally. Likewise, local governments, universities and students themselves recognise how beneficial the presence of young and diverse talent is for cities in general. The needs of prospective international students then are only set to become more relevant. 


Now that you’re inspired to study abroad, why not start browsing undergraduatepostgraduatevocational or doctoral courses abroad now?

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