As a school leaver, it can be a daunting task settling on a potential study destination. With so many things to take into account, such as the quality of the course and the reputation of the university, it can be easy to overlook one of the most important aspects of your decision: what it’s actually like to live there!
Luckily, a recent student satisfaction survey by QS has shed some light on the top towns and cities for university life; taking into account a variety of factors, such as affordability, culture, nightlife and employment opportunities, it reveals a wealth of interesting – and, in some cases, unexpected – locales in which to spend your formative years.
So, if you’re ready to take that next step, here are the best student cities in the world for an incredible university experience.
12. Edinburgh, Scotland
Approx. population: 500,000
Student population: 40,000 (12:1)
Best universities: University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier, Heriot-Watt
Boasting a rich history of tradition, academia and authentic Scottish culture, Edinburgh is constantly voted as one of the most desirable places to live in the world; it’s also one of the most visited, too, with only London attracting more tourists each year within the UK.
The annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival regularly features well-known comedians and performers from across the globe, while the city’s assortment of bars, clubs and coffee shops – many nestled within the narrow Victorian back streets – make for a thriving social scene.
Recommended student areas: Newington, Marchmont and Tollcross
11. New York City, USA
Approx. population: 8.6 million
Student population: 595,000 (14:1)
Best universities: Columbia University, Cornell University, Juilliard, New York University
As one of the largest, most diverse and culturally significant cities in the world, the benefits of studying in NYC are self-evident. Columbia, Cornell and Juilliard, meanwhile, boast some of the most exclusive schools in the US.
The Big Apple’s much-celebrated public transport system makes it easy to get around and you’ll never be stuck for something to do in between study sessions; after all, when you consider how many movies, TV shows and significant real-life events take place there, it’s hard not to view New York as one of the most exciting and dynamic locations on the planet.
Recommended student areas: Midtown East, Yorkville and Washington Heights
10. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Approx. population: 2.9 million
Student population: Unavailable
Best universities: University of Buenos Aires, Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, University of Palermo
With a thriving and dedicated café scene (Buenos Aires is often referred to as the “Paris of South America”), the Argentinian capital is the perfect study destination for those seeking culture and adventure in abundance.
Bold, colourful and endlessly vibrant, there are raucous carnivals, passionate sports crowds and, of course, the world-famous tango; dance and the wider arts are of huge importance to the city, making it an ideal match if you’re looking to pursue a more creative education.
Recommended student areas: Palermo, Belgrano and Barrio Norte
9. Brno, Czech Republic
Approx. population: 500,000
Student population: 50,000 (10:1)
Best universities: Brno University of Technology, Masaryk University, Mendel University
As a small city in the south-east of the Czech Republic, Brno might not have the international standing of some of the other entries on the list, but what it does have is charm, appeal and student satisfaction by the bucket load.
Cosy, affordable and with a high proportion of undergraduates (meaning that there are plenty of new friends to be made), Brno boasts an array of festivals, theatres, museums and galleries; there is also a growing number of engineering and software development firms setting up shop in the city, making it an ideal choice for STEM students, in particular.
Recommended student areas: Brno-Mesto, Zabrdovice and Veveri
8. Berlin, Germany
Approx. population: 3.5 million
Student population: 181,000 (19:1)
Best universities: Humboldt University, Free University of Berlin, Technische Universitat Berlin
Much like NYC, the biggest appeal of studying in Berlin is that there is simply so much to do; there are countless bars, cafes, clubs, restaurants, galleries, museums and parks to explore, with the spectre of the city’s unique and fascinating history present on every corner.
Berlin is also very student-friendly, too and is more affordable than the likes of Paris and London, while still offering a relatively high standard of living. Besides, what’s not to love about a city where you can go to a techno club on your afternoon lunch break?
Recommended student areas: Kreuzberg, Mitte and Prenzlauer-Berg
7. Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Approx. population: 822,000
Student population: 82,000 (estimated) (10:1)
Best universities: University of Amsterdam, VU University Amsterdam, Hogeschool van Amsterdam
As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, Amsterdam is defined by its effortlessly cool atmosphere. Luckily, this sense of self-guidance translates perfectly into the city’s student experience, too.
Small enough to be intimate, and with English widely spoken, Amsterdam is renowned for its tolerance, diversity and inclusion, with many choosing to stay in the city after graduation. It’s also the perfect fit for art majors, with numerous galleries dedicated to the original Dutch masters, such as Van Gogh and Rembrandt.
Recommended student areas: Amsterdam Zuid-Oost, Indische Buurt and Buitenveldert
6. Stockholm, Sweden
Approx. population: 1.5 million
Student population: 100,000 (15:1)
Best universities: Karolinska Institute, Stockholm University, Royal Institute of Technology
If Berlin and Amsterdam are the cool kids of Europe, then Stockholm is their slightly more mature and laid back cousin. Featuring one of the best medical schools in the world and a similar reputation for openness and tolerance, there is a thriving social scene to be discovered here.
Although it’s not the cheapest place to live, the good news is that EU pupils don’t pay tuition fees. For many, though, the high quality of living and the city’s carefree attitude are well worth the price alone.
Recommended student areas: Sodermalm, Norrmalm and Vasastan
5. Vienna, Austria
Approx. population: 1.8 million
Student population: 200,000 (9:1)
Best universities: Universitat Wien, TU Wien, Vienna University of Economics and Business
Although it may not have the edginess or “coolness” of Berlin or New York (at least on the surface), Vienna certainly delivers in other ways; renowned for the opulence of its opera houses, regal palaces and Hapsburg-era architecture, the Austrian capital is in no short supply of sophistication.
It also hosts a hugely diverse and clearly satisfied student population, as well as affordable living costs and tuition fees. Music students, meanwhile, will be particularly enamoured with their surroundings; Beethoven, Brahms, Strauss and Mozart all performed regularly in the city.
Recommended student areas: Leopoldstadt, Rudolfsheim-Funfhaus and Neubau
4. Prague, Czech Republic
Approx. population: 1.3 million
Student population: Unavailable
Best universities: Charles University, Czech Technical University, University of Economics Prague
The second Czech entry in the top 10, Prague has been entertaining students since as far back as 1348 and in terms of education, little has changed; thousands of young people flock to the Czech capital every year to experience all the city has to offer.
That’s not surprising, of course, as Prague ticks all the necessary boxes; it’s affordable, stylish, beautiful and historic, and thanks to Pilsner-Urquell and Staropramen, it also boasts some of the cheapest beer on the continent.
Recommended student areas: Vinohrady, Zizkov and Karlin
3. Melbourne, Australia
Approx. population: 4.73 million
Student population: 300,000 (16:1)
Best universities: University of Melbourne, Monash University, RMIT, Deakin
Regularly voted as one of the top places to live in the world (think great weather, bustling metropolis and solid infrastructure), Melbourne is also one of the best in which to study. There are over 200,000 international students in the city, for instance, with many choosing to stay and make a new life on the Victoria coast.
And why wouldn’t they? There’s a diverse multicultural society, a food and coffee scene to rival Paris or Rome, and most importantly, for the purposes of your education, its home to some of the best universities in the world. Who knows, you might be lucky enough to even see a real-life koala or two, as well.
Recommended student areas: Carlton, Collingwood and Brunswick
2. Munich, Germany
Approx. population: 1.45 million
Student population: Unavailable
Best universities: Technical University of Munich, Ludwig Maximillian (LMU), Munich University of Applied Sciences
Munich might not have the academic reputation of Boston or Cambridge, the ‘cool’ reputation of Berlin or Prague, or even the ‘student town’ reputation of Edinburgh or New Haven, but it’s clearly doing something right according to its student population.
The nearby Bavarian countryside might have something to do with it (although the beer and pretzels – see Oktoberfest – are a more likely culprit). Either way, undergrad satisfaction levels are through the roof. With one of the strongest economies in Germany, it’s also a popular place to settle after graduation, too.
Recommended student areas: Maxvorstadt, Schwabing and Viktualienmarkt
1. Montreal, Canada
Approx. population: 1.75 million
Student population: 170,000 (10:1)
Best universities: McGill University, Universite de Montreal, Concordia University
Another regular in the various “best places to live” polls, Montreal is widely regarded as one of the most cosmopolitan and multicultural cities in the world. Its students clearly agree, voting it to the top spot among some stiff competition.
The city’s French influence resonates heavily, with students exposed to an array of top restaurants and cafes, while Montreal also happens to be one of the most beautiful urban spaces on the planet. This combination of cultured and lively living, coupled with the academic reputation of its universities, makes it the perfect fit for those in search of the premier student experience in the world.
Recommended student areas: Mile End/Plateau, Saint-Henri and Notre-Dame-de-Grace
As you can see, there’s more to student life than the university you choose to go to and the campus you choose to stay in. Living in an amazing city can be an experience in itself, especially when you are surrounded by the kind of people, places and culture described on this list. If you’re looking for a slightly different experience to the norm, then start researching ahead – and get those plane tickets booked early!
What about you? Where did you study and why was it so amazing? Let us know in the comments!