Best Student Cities in the World 2023

By StudyLink

Image of a lady sitting on a wall with her hands in her pocket facing away and looking at a city skyline

It is important that when deciding where to study, you take time to research what different cities have to offer.

In addition to the academic and research quality of an international university, the city you live in as an international student has a major impact on your lifestyle and professional career prospects.

International students today have an extremely wide range of options to choose from when it comes to university destinations all over the world. Each major city offers a unique set of advantages for the modern-day international student, including well-connected public transport, public safety, strong educational infrastructure, vibrant student communities and generous scholarship options.

International students can find it overwhelming when it comes to choosing the best university city for them. So if you are asking yourself ‘where should I study abroad in 2023’, you’ve come to the right place!

We’ve compiled the perfect list of the best five cities for top-ranked university degrees in the world; read on to explore the unique benefits, the particular living and tuition expenses, and a brief overview of the best universities for international students in each of the top five student cities in the world for 2023!

Top Student Cities in the World 2023

The annual QS Best Student Cities ranking is considered the premier ranking index of student cities for international students. The QS ranking judges cities with a minimum population of 250,000 residents and a minimum of 2 universities in the most recent QS World University Rankings. The qualifying cities are then ranked according to six indicators:

  • University rankings
  • Student mix
  • Desirability
  • Employer activity
  • Affordability
  • Student voice

The QS Best Student Cities rankings cover each of the important aspects of student cities for international students such as safety, immigrant-friendly environment, entertainment and outdoor urban spaces, public transport and related infrastructure, and the quality of the city’s top-ranked universities for international students.

London – #1 QS Student Cities Rank

London is the capital of the United Kingdom and a truly global city, with nearly 40% of the city’s 9.5 million residents being foreign-born immigrants. With excellent connectivity options between London’s major airports and cities in Africa, Asia and South America, you will always be able to comfortably travel to London from your hometown.

The city offers excellent public transport options, vibrant entertainment venues and numerous outdoor areas to relax and enjoy your time away from the classroom. And the best part for international students thinking of studying in London is that the city has as many as 18 universities in the QS Global University Rankings! Top universities in London include Imperial College London, University College London and King’s College London.

Undergraduate tuition costs for international students in top-ranked London universities vary between 25,000-30,000 US Dollars per year, and are higher for specialised programmes such as Dentistry courses at about 38,000-40,000 US Dollars per year. Postgraduate tuition fees depend on the specific programme selected and range between 20,000 and 35,000 US Dollars per year. As for living costs, Imperial College London estimates that international students should consider a budget of 1,600-2,000 US Dollars per month.

Sizable international student communities at each university ensure that you will always feel comfortable, safe and supported during your time in London. Additionally, with large-scale business in sectors including financial services, manufacturing, technology and data science, studying in London will allow you to identify industry-leading job opportunities post-graduation. Global companies such as Google, Amazon and Unilever regularly recruit international students at London universities.

Find out more about Studying in London.

Munich – =2

Munich is the capital and largest city of the German state of Bavaria, a major European industrial centre for automobiles and defence equipment manufacturing. The city has a population of 1.5 million residents, and the larger Munich municipal area hosts almost 6 million people.

As Germany becomes an increasingly popular international student destination, Munich has risen up the ranks as a university city because of improvements in factors including employer activity and affordability indicators. The most important factor, of course, is the fact that German public universities charge extremely low tuition fees for international students on undergraduate courses. Additionally, nearly every fourth student in Munich is a foreign resident, making Munich a diverse city, alongside its well-developed public infrastructure and high living standards.

Life in Munich for international students means access to stunning outdoor spots and nearby sights such as the Alps mountain range, in addition to the city’s vibrant and youthful entertainment venues and interesting landmarks. Top-ranked Munich universities for international students include the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich and Technical University of Munich, both of which rank in the QS top 60 universities globally. Moreover, Munich ranks in the QS top 15 worldwide for employer activity and is home to multiple headquarters for large-scale companies such as Accenture, BMW, Deloitte and PWC.

The chance to study at a world-class university for free as an undergraduate makes studying in Munich excellent value for money for international students. For postgraduate degrees, international students pay a one-time enrollment fee of about 3,300-16,700 USD depending on the programme selected. As for living costs, LMU Munich estimates that you should budget between 900 and 1,200 US Dollars every month.

Find out more about Universities in Munich.

Seoul – =2

Seoul is the capital of South Korea with a population of nearly ten million residents. In the last year alone, Seoul climbed seven spots on the QS Best Cities rankings and is constantly improving in terms of major factors such as employability, infrastructure, public safety and transport options.

Seoul ranks second worldwide for employability, and is home to growing technological industries primarily based in two areas of the city – Gangnam and Digital Media City. Additionally, Seoul is famously vibrant with exciting entertainment venues spread across the city, alongside world-class restaurants and plenty of outdoor areas for picnics and exercise.

Seoul is home to 20 universities in the QS Global University Rankings, and the presence of such a large number of top-ranked universities creates a world-class shared educational infrastructure for international students. 4 of Seoul’s universities are ranked in the global top 100 – Seoul National University (SNU), Yonsei University, Korea University and Sungkyunkwan University.

International students at Seoul universities can expect a required monthly budget of between 1,700-1,900 US Dollars. As for tuition expenses, an undergraduate degree programme at a public Seoul university costs 9,000-12,000 US Dollars per year. Humanities courses tend to be more affordable, whereas specialisations such as medicine are the most expensive. Tuition fees will likely be more expensive at private Seoul universities, and may cost up to 20,000 US Dollars per year.

Zurich – 4

Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland with an urban population of 1.3 million residents. Zurich is well-known as a global centre for financial and banking services, as well as a hub for textile and machine manufacturing industries.

Zurich ranked 3rd worldwide in the Economist magazine’s 2022 Global Liveability Index. The Swiss city offers a well-connected urban environment, high levels of public safety, natural beauty in the form of parks and nearby mountains, and a high standard of living. Naturally, this high living standard does not come cheap; international students can expect to pay at least 2,000 US Dollars every month as living expenses in Zurich.

Zurich currently has two universities in the QS Global Top 100 – ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich. ETH Zurich, also known as the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology is the highest-ranked university in mainland Europe and the best university from outside the UK and USA. Both ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich are well-known for their academic quality, spending on student facilities and strengths in research & innovation. There is a sizable international community of about 13,000 international students in total at the two Zurich universities.

Tuition fees for international students at Swiss public universities usually range between 500-3,800 US Dollars per year, whereas Phd degree programmes cost between 200-1,000 US Dollars per year. On the other hand, private Swiss universities charge up to 40,000 US Dollars per year for certain degree programmes.

Melbourne – 5

Melbourne is Australia’s largest city with an urban population of over 5 million residents. Melbourne offers high living standards alongside relatively low costs of living.

With nearly 40% of Melbourne residents being immigrants, the city is also very immigrant-friendly and multicultural. In fact, Melbourne itself is home to nearly 100,000 international students from all over the world!

Melbourne ranked 10th on the Economist magazine’s 2022 Global Liveability Index. Melbourne universities have an exciting and accessible lifestyle in store for international students and a vibrant nightlife makes the seaside city an even bigger favourite for international students. Additionally, Melbourne is famous for its well-connected public transport network, world-class food options and sunny beaches.

Melbourne ranked 7th in graduate employability, and offers international students the chance to work up to 40 hours a week alongside your academics in order to kickstart your career early.

Melbourne is home to many of Australia’s largest companies and has particular industry strengths in finance, manufacturing, research, IT and education sectors. Many international students use the part-time work allowance to offset their living expenses which usually range between 900-1,200 US Dollars per month. As for tuition costs, they can vary for international students and depend on the specific programme. They usually range between 20,000-45,000 US Dollars for an undergraduate degree at a Melbourne university.

Melbourne boasts as many as seven universities in the QS Global top 750, with the University of Melbourne and Monash University leading the way, being ranked in the top 60 worldwide.

Many international students in Australia also pursue programmes at TAFE institutes, or Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) throughout the country. Studying at a TAFE institute provides you with a vocationally-oriented degree and offers high-quality on-the-job training with an employer in Melbourne. Melbourne TAFE institutes include Box Hill Institute and Melbourne Polytechnic.

Find out more about Universities in Melbourne.

Berlin – 6

Berlin is the capital of Germany and the largest city in the European Union with nearly 3.7 million residents. Located in northeast Germany, Berlin is a major hub for world-leading employers in a variety of sectors including digital media, biotechnology, manufacturing and construction.

Berlin is welcoming and friendly towards all cultures and nationalities, with nearly a million Berlin residents being foreign-born immigrants. The city ranked in the global top 30 in the Economist Magazine’s Global Liveability Index 2022 and offers world-class urban infrastructure, transport and public safety levels.

In 2014, Germany removed tuition fees for domestic as well as international undergraduate students at all public universities. International undergraduates at public universities in Berlin must pay only a minor semester fee amounting to about 300-400 US Dollars per year. Meanwhile, according to the Berlin School of Business and Innovation, international students should budget between 800 and 900 US Dollars every month for living costs.

Berlin is home to three universities in the QS Global top 200 – Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University and Technical University of Berlin. Each of these universities is well known for its world-class standards of research and faculty quality, as well as numerous technical partnerships with the EU and large-scale corporations in a variety of disciplines. Additionally, the Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin is a world-leading medical school and is home to one of Europe’s largest university hospitals.

Find out more about Universities in Berlin.

For more information about the different cities you can study in as an international student, take a look at our Student Cities directory.

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