Study Shows Paris Is Still the Best City in the World for Students

Paris's high concentration of top-ranking universities and low tuition fees makes it the most student-friendly city in the world.
December 2, 2015, 1:07pm
Foto di Etienne Rouillon/VICE News

Paris has been rated the world's most student-friendly city for the fourth year running. Melbourne comes in second, followed by Tokyo.

The ranking of "the world's leading urban destinations for international students" was published Tuesday by QS, a company that specializes in compiling higher education ratings.

Each of the cities included in the ranking scores points for the quality of its higher education institutions, the diversity of its student body, the "desirability" of its living environment, affordability, and popularity among global recruiters.

Only cities boasting at least two high-ranking universities and a population over 250,000 can be included in the rankings.

Responding to the news in French daily Le Parisien, Thierry Coulhon, President of Paris Sciences et Lettres — an association of higher education institutions and research centers in the Paris area — said he was glad to see the city hold on to its title.

"After the horrific terror attacks that this symbolic city has experienced, Paris is more determined than ever to defend every day its values of solidarity, freedom and creativity," he said.

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The capital scored highly thanks to its concentration of 18 high-ranking universities like Sciences Po Paris, ENS Paris, the Sorbonne, and HEC Paris. With 19 universities in the top 75, only London scores higher that Paris for academic excellence.

With average annual tuition fees of $2,300, the city also earned top marks for affordability – the low fees helping offset the high cost of Paris living. In comparison, the average tuition fees for a year spent studying in Boston — the highest-ranking US city in the table, coming in at number 13 — are $45,300.

As well as tuition fees, a city's affordability is calculated using the Big Mac Index, a tongue-in-cheek measure of purchasing power parity introduced by The Economist in 1986 and based on the varying global cost of the eponymous hamburger. It also takes into account the iPad Index, which compares the price of the Apple device in different countries.

For those who aren't convinced by burgernomics and counting apples, QS also determines a city's affordability using the Mercer Cost of Living survey.

When it comes to affordability alone, Paris slides down to 25th on the list, and frugal students may prefer to relocate to Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur (1st), Polish capital Warsaw (2nd), or Hsinchu, in Taiwan (3rd).

Paris also falls behind in the "desirability" category, with 21 cities ahead of it. According to the 2015 crime index, Paris ranks 324th out of 446 cities for safety. And according to the pollution index, Paris is the 122nd most polluted urban center out of 300, sandwiched between Krakow, Poland, and Phuket, in Thailand.

QS has also compiled what some may consider less academically relevant information. For example, students may be interested to learn that with 300,000 dogs in the capital, there are more canines than children in Paris, and that there is only one "Stop" sign in the entire capital.

"Paris is proud to be awarded the title of best student city in the world for the fourth year running," said Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo. "Our young people are our greatest strength and embody our highest hopes."

While Paris may be the top choice for student wishing to study in France, other French cities also appear in the rankings, including the gastronomic capital of France, Lyon (46th), and the vibrant southern city of Toulouse (74th).

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With 11 cities in the table, the US takes home the most high-ranking cities, followed by the UK, which has eight top student destinations. Australia is the only country with two cities in the top five: Melbourne and Sydney.

The 2016 QS index sees Melbourne hold onto second place, thanks to its seven elite universities and diverse mix of students – 30 percent of the city's students are from abroad. Sydney, fourth on the list, scores highly for similar reasons.

Despite boasting some of the world's top universities, the US is conspicuously absent from the top ten, partly because of prohibitive tuition fees.

Boston, which is home to Harvard and MIT – voted best university in the world by QS – comes in at 13. And New York, which boasts 11 ranked institutions, is only 20th in the ranking. Despite its proximity to Stanford and Berkeley, two of the world's best universities, San Francisco lags behind at 27.

Nine of the ten least affordable cities for students are located in the US.

Top Ten Student Cities: (Last Year's Ranking in Brackets)

1. Paris (1)

2. Melbourne (2)

3. Tokyo (7)

4. Sydney (4)

5. London (3)

6. Singapore (15)

7. Montreal (8)

8. Hong Kong (5)

9. Berlin (16)

10. Seoul (10)

Follow Pierre Longeray on Twitter: @PLongeray

Watch VICE News' documentary: **_Paris Gun Attack, Dispatch 1: _**