If you have followed the QS World University Rankings in the past you’ll be accustomed to seeing a table dominated by US universities, so the top ten of QS Best Student Cities 2012 may make surprising reading. Paris tops the list, with five other European cities making the top ten: London, Vienna, Zurich, Berlin and Dublin. So what’s changed?Rather than focusing on individual universities, QS Best Student Cities 2012 looks at the broader experience of studying in different cities. While leading US universities undoubtedly offer world-class facilities and research, when other aspects of the student experience are taken into account several European cities offer distinct advantages of their own.One of these is undoubtedly affordability. At a time when many students have to take on ever greater debts to fund their degrees, universities in Paris and many other cities in continental Europe still offer high-quality education at affordable prices. International students at leading Parisian universities pay annual fees of less than US$1,000, compared to up to $18,000 in the UK and $40,000 in the US. This could amount to a whopping saving of $150,000 over four years.
Paris also offers a student concentration that belies its status as a major global capital. With 16 universities in the QS World University Rankings, Paris has an unrivalled variety and concentration of globally recognised institutions, contributing to its famed student scene. The city’s Latin Quarter in particular is a hub of student activity, with a cluster of famous institutions including the Sorbonne, École Normal Supérieure and École des Mines de Paris. This means that while Paris is a large and diverse capital it also has the sort of student-dominated core that one would expect to find in a smaller university town.
Another aspect in which the French capital excels is in the number of domestic and international employers seeking to recruit its graduates. Parisian graduates are identified as priority targets by employers both in France and all across Europe, reflecting the solid graduate skills gained through its teaching-intensive undergraduate system, and the internationally-minded nature of Parisian graduates. Despite the continent’s current financial uncertainties, Paris offers a wealth of graduate opportunities due to its position at the heart of the EU.
Another feature of the top-ranked European cities is their high score for quality of living, based on the annual Mercer Quality of Living Index, which takes into account factors such as safety, public services and infrastructure, recreation and environment. Vienna, ranked fifth overall here, was the top city in the world for quality of living in 2011, and other major European student cities to feature near the top of the table include Munich, Zurich, Berlin, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Dublin and Paris.