London: ranked the world’s best city for students
(Last updated: 12 May 2021)
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London has come top in the latest ranking of world cities for university students, reports the BBC. Despite being one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in, London ranked extremely highly across numerous other variables. This included safety, student experience, job opportunities, culture and – perhaps most importantly – access to world-leading Higher Education institutions.
The rankings are published by the prestigious Higher Education data analysis firm QS, which also – along with the Times – publishes one of the most frequently cited and highly regarded global university rankings tables.
How reliable is the ranking? And what does it say about the student experience in London?
Obviously, the rankings attempt to score and weight a lot of data that is, by its nature, difficult to quantify. The methodology page does make fascinating reading, though! QS used surveys in which students were asked to rate their experiences along with publicly available metrics including the Economy Intelligence Unit’s Liveability Index and the Globalization and World Cities index (GaWC), which itself is based on TripAdvisor rankings among other factors.
Cities were also given a Corruption Score, scoring high marks on this index for low levels of public sector corruption according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, and even a Pollution Score! Given that we can’t imagine London scored any better on the air quality front than it did for affordability, we can safely say that London must have scored very highly indeed on a number of the other metrics.
Cities gained points for having high numbers of international students enrolled at their ranked institutions, for a high proportion of international students compared to the student population as a whole, and for tolerance and inclusion. It seems safe to conclude that London is a welcoming, diverse and tolerant environment for students of all backgrounds, which is just as well given the benefits that a diverse student body can bring to a community.
What about other UK cities? Did they do well too?
London isn’t the only city in the UK that ranks highly among global cities for students. Edinburgh is in 16th place, Manchester squeaks into the top 25, and Glasgow, Coventry, and Nottingham are all in the top 50. However, even though the UK is now home to the world’s best city for students, we remain behind other countries in terms of the number of British cities ranked among the top in the world.
Australia (with Melbourne at 3 and Sydney at 9) and Germany (Munich at 6 and Berlin at 7) are each home to two top-10 cities, with Australia also boasting a further two cities in the top 25 (Brisbane and Canberra at 22 and 23 respectively). British cities outperform their US counterparts by some margin though. Boston is the highest US city at 13 in the list, while New York, the only other American city in the top 25, ranks 18th.
What do these rankings mean for me?
If you’re considering applying to go to university in a major global city, these rankings are well worth taking notice of. While only the biggest cities offered sufficient data to allow them to be ranked using QS’s methodology (just over 100 cities in total made the list), the city rankings offer a more complete picture of the different aspects of their experience that students value most.
The rankings offer a fairly broad picture of the student experience and can’t of course be tailored to individual needs. Several of the world’s most expensive cities are grouped near the top, for example, so if affordability is important to you, it would be advisable to check how cities ranked according to that metric. And again, the links from QS’s methodology page have you covered if you want to dig further.
But if you’re going to be far from home, feeling safe and welcome, and enjoying an inclusive and diverse environment with a rich set of art, culture and leisure opportunities, are all likely to be pretty important factors in staving off homesickness. The QS rankings shouldn’t make your decision about where to study by themselves, but they do offer a pretty good indication of the best places to be a student in 2018!
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