The 10 best cities to study in – 2018


Are you hankering to explore and spend time studying abroad? This list is just for you. QS have released their annual rankings for the best cities for international students.

Top of the list is London, which rose 10 spots from last year’s ranking to replace Montreal at the top spot. London scored well as it is both a global academic and business hub, with many top rated universities as well as fantastic employment opportunities. For us in South Africa paying in rand, London’s low ranking on affordability is likely prohibitive. The average tuition fees at the 17 ranked London universities work out to more then $21,000 a year, which excludes the equally high cost of living and rent.

A variety of factors were taken into consideration including affordability, university rankings, student mix, desirability and employer activity. Students and recent graduates from around the world were also surveyed for their input and rated their cities across eight factors; friendliness, ease of getting around, affordability, tolerance and inclusion, diversity, nightlife, employment opportunities and arts and culture.

Second on the list was Tokyo, which also topped the list for employer activity. Tokyo’s sheer size offers one of the most varied and cosmopolitan living environments. As one of the world’s three leading financial epicentres, it provides enviable professional and internship opportunities.

For those looking at affordability, the top ranked university city is Budapest, which offers a great student life, with a large selection of unique ‘ruin pubs’, bohemian cafés, bars, clubs and live music venues.

South Africa also fared well in the affordability category, with Johannesburg ranking in at 10th spot and Cape Town at 22nd.

Africa had 3 cities ranked in the top 100: Cape Town at 71st: If you’ve got a taste for adventure, the report says this is the student city for you. It notes the variety of outdoor activities on offer, with Table Mountain, the many nearby explore wildlife reserves and the plentiful beaches. The mix of both old and new architecture with the old Cape Dutch style of architecture alongside modern buildings that helped earn the city the title of World Design Capital in 2014 helped the ‘Mother City’ on its ranking. The report also noted Cape Town’s diversity and special mention was made of the fact that it provides a welcoming environment for the LGBT community.

Johannesburg at 79th: The report noted that with its extensive parks and an estimated six million trees, Johannesburg is considered one of the greenest cities in the world. The city ranks particularly well on affordability reflecting its fairly low tuition fees and living costs, while at the same time offering a huge amount to see and do from a vibrant nightlife to a wide range of public art galleries.

Wrapping up the African cities on the top 100, Cairo came in at at 94th: The report notes that Cairo is an education hub and is home to one of the oldest universities in the world – Al-Azhar University, founded more than a thousand years ago. With over 20 million people in the city, it is the largest in the Middle East and offers a fast pace of life, thriving film and music industries alongside such ancient history as the Pyramids of Giza.

Rest of the Top 10 list:

3. Melbourne 

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Melbourne is home to one of the world’s most diverse student communities. It is full of all the attractions that make the Australian lifestyle so appealing – including beautiful beaches, nightlife and a fair proportion of sunny days.

4. Montreal

Last year’s number one student city was top for Student View this year and is celebrated by students for its arts and culture, as well as for its friendliness and diversity.

5. Paris

Paris was top student city for an impressive four consecutive years. While Paris does have a reputation for its high cost of living, this is balanced out by low tuition fees.

6. Munich

The city is ranked as 2nd most popular after Montréal, as students appreciate factors such as affordability, ease of getting around, nightlife and friendliness.

7. Berlin

Berlin is a major centre of design, fashion, music and art, offering both unbeatable culture and a hot financial market. To sweeten the deal even further, all undergraduate degrees (and some postgraduate programs) are free at public universities in Germany, even for international students.

8. Zurich 


While rent and socializing may cost a packet, international tuition fees in Switzerland are relatively low. Zurich gained plenty of acclaim in the student survey, with one student pointing out its “natural beauty and high standard of living” while another praised its “perfect combination of city life and nature”.

9. Sydney

Sydney is ranked fourth in the world for desirability, reflecting the all-round high quality of life in the city. It offers an enjoyable student experience as well as the chance to stay and work in Australia after graduation.

10. Seoul


The magic of this city, rich in culture and history, comes from Seoul being as alive at 3am as it is at 5pm, making boredom impossible. No fewer than 18 universities in Seoul are featured in the QS World University Rankings® 2018.