QS Best Student Cities Methodology | Top Universities

QS Best Student Cities Methodology

By Staff Writer

Updated June 29, 2022 Updated June 29, 2022

The QS Best Student Cities ranking showcases the best urban destinations for international students, based on a diverse range of indicators grouped into six key categories.

To 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®. For population metrics, the metropolitan area is used where possible. Current calculations suggest that 164 cities qualify for consideration.

The six key categories are:

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

These are each given equal weighting when calculating the overall order of the index, although indicators within each category may have different weightings.


As an example, here are some of the indicators used within each category.

University rankings

  • How many universities does the city have which are in the QS World University Rankings?
  • How well do those universities perform in the latest rankings?

Student mix

  • What proportion of the city's population are students?
  • How many international students are enrolled in the city?
  • How inclusive is the city and the country it's located in?


  • How safe is the city?
  • What are the pollution levels like in the city?
  • How many respondents to our student survey wanted to study in the city?

Employer activity

  • What is youth employment like in the city?
  • What do employers think of the graduates produced by universities in the city?


  • How much does tuition cost at the city's universities?
  • What is the cost of living for students in the city?

Student voice

  • What ratings did students give the city's friendliness, sustainability, diversity and more?
  • What proportion of students continue to live in the city after graduation?

Learn more about these indicators and how they are measured.

This article was originally published in February 2017 . It was last updated in June 2022

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