London tops as best student city four years in a row
QS Best Student Cities
QS Quacquarelli Symonds released their annual Best Student Cities list, in which they find and rank the best cities in the world for studying abroad and showcase the best urban destinations for international students.
The most recent city rankings are based on survey responses from more than 110,000 prospective international students in 194 countries. The QS rating methodology states that “[t]o be considered for inclusion, each city must have a population of over 250,000, and be home to at least two universities featured in the most recent QS World University Rankings.” If a city has these preconditions, they are then eligible to be ranked. Qualified cities are then ranked based on a diverse range of indicators grouped into six key categories, namely: university rankings, student mix, desirability, employer activity, affordability and student voice. ICEF Monitor breaks down the six categories as such:
- University Rankings – Aimed to reflect the collective performance of a city’s universities in the QS World University Rankings.
- Student Mix – Which assesses the student make-up of a city such as on-campus diversity, both overall and from an international perspective.
- Desirability – With a broad spectrum of datasets, this is used to indicate how desirable a destination is as a whole, ranging from safety to pollution.
- Employer Activity – In this indicator, two factors are considered that are derived from the QS Graduate Employability Rankings, examining which cities are the most highly sought-after employment grounds for graduates.
- Affordability – From tuition fees to the cost of living, the affordability indicator measures how cost-effective a city is most likely to be for prospective students and their families.
- Student Voice – Using findings from our yearly QS International Student Survey, we incorporate the views that students have on their experience studying abroad.
London maintains its top one ranking fourfold
In the four years that QS has published this list, namely 2019, 2022, 2023 and 2024, London has continuously secured its position at number one. “This year’s ranking is once again topped by London. Home to several leading universities, including UCL (University College London), Imperial College London, and King’s College London, the city has been a student favourite for years and has plenty of world-class academic institutions for students to choose from”, says QS about London bagging the top spot once again for the latest rankings.
With having a minimum of two universities listed in the QS World University Rankings as a prerequisite, it’s no wonder London has remained at the highest ranking. After all, it’s home to a huge 18 universities featured in the QS World University Rankings 2024, with two of these making it into the global top 10: Imperial College London in sixth place, and University College London (UCL) in ninth, according to QS Top Universities.
Ratings per specific criteria
In terms of each specific criteria for the rating, these are London’s rankings: 6th for student mix, 20th for desirability, 8th for employer activity, 142nd for affordability and 2nd for student voice. The city has clearly fared very high across all categories except one – affordability. London is not exactly a cheap destination for international students. Rent and living costs are significantly higher in London compared to the rest of the UK. According to QS Top Universities, “[t]he average tuition fee for international students in London is around US$24,400, which, whilst high, is significantly lower than many US institutions. Domestic students in London can expect to pay £9,000 a year in tuition.”
Despite the high living expenses, London retains its position at the top for many other well-founded reasons. It’s an academic hotspot offering indisputable excellence in education, a melting pot for many rich and diverse cultures, and one of the biggest cities in the world which is ripe with opportunities for every kind of young professional.
It’s no doubt that London is one of the best options for students aspiring to study abroad and gain invaluable experiences, in terms of education, career advancement, and life in general. That is why we help guide students in choosing which specific London universities and courses are most suitable to their goals.