These are the five best cities in the world for students

February 16, 2017
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If you’ve had your heart set on going on exchange but you're not sure where you want to go, choosing your exchange destination might be a daunting task. There’s pros and cons to everywhere, but if you’re looking for the best student destination, there are official rankings that can help with that. Known for their World University Ranking table, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) have compiled their annual list of the best destinations for students in 2017.


Landing the number one spot for best student city, this Canadian city is home to high ranking universities and a lively cultural scene. QS ranked it number one as it’s “…renowned for its laidback yet lively lifestyle, attractive boulevards, thriving creative industries, café culture, and eclectic range of arts venues, live performances and nightlife”.

If you want to learn and practice another language as part of your exchange experience, Montreal is ideal. The majority of the population speaks French, but many are bilingual and will also speak English if you’re stuck.


Named the best student city for four years (before being beaten out by Montreal this year), for years Paris has topped the list for its high ranking universities. You might want to choose Paris if you want an elite university on your transcript, as they have “…produced some of the most important philosophers, theorists, scientists, politicians, business leaders and mathematicians of the last 100 years”.

While academia is a big reason to choose Paris, QS also attributes its popularity to “...low tuition fees – though of course enjoying all the delights of life in this iconic European capital will certainly stretch your student budget, especially if you’re into haute couture and haute cuisine”.


If you’d prefer not to learn another language during your study abroad, London is a city that's a home away from home. While QS has noted that the Brexit vote may cause London to lose it’s high place in future rankings, for now it still remains as a gateway to the rest of Europe. If you’re based in London, there’s so many opportunities to take weekend trips and immerse in other cultures around the continent.

While rent and living costs are quite high in London, QS says it's worth the money.

“It's an epicenter of international finance and business, culture and creativity, famed for its museums, arts scene, nightlife and diversity. Anything you want to try, see, eat, learn or experience: it’s here.”


South Korea’s capital has a bit of everything to suit any exchange student’s taste – looking for academic universities? Seoul sits in at number three for top university rankings. Want a wild party experience? QS recommends it.

“Seoul is a 24/7 city in which life is never dull. Whether it’s the sounds of night-market sellers, the atmosphere of the all-night tea houses or the cries of gamers at a ‘PC bang’ (gaming center), Seoul is as alive at 3am as it is at 5pm. The magic of this city is that boredom is impossible, with culture, history and creativity everywhere you turn.”

To contrast with it’s wild nightlife, Seoul is also the ideal location for the highly-stressed student. Home to many Buddhist temples, traditional saunas and breathtaking hikes, it’s also a place where you can find the perfect balance to chill out inbetween studying and partying.


Although you can't exactly do a study abroad program to Melbourne if you're from Australia, congrats to the Australian city that made the top five! QS labelled the city as having one of the most diverse student communities in the world, as well as having top ranking universities like the University of Melbourne.

It’s no surprise so many international students choose Melbourne. as it often tops the list for most livable city as well. QS says it’s not just the Australian lifestyle, but also the “…beautiful beaches, nightlife and a fair proportion of sunny days. The city’s cultural calendar is packed year-round – spanning arts, comedy, music, film, fashion, and a host of multicultural celebrations”.

Special mentions

As Melbourne came in at number five and isn’t really an exchange option for many of you, it’s only fair to mention that Berlin would have come in at number five if we're not including Australian cities. Other international cities who scored a top 10 spot include Tokyo, Boston (beating out NYC which came in at number 19), Munich and Vancouver – giving Germany and Canada two cities in the top 10.

And in case you were wondering, Melbourne isn't the only Australian city to have a commendable spot on the list. Sydney came in at number 13, Brisbane at number 20 and Canberra was placed at number 22.

Lauren Piggott

Image: Ellen Munro, Flickr Creative Commons license