QS Best Student Cities: London's increasing affordability becomes a big draw

UK capital tops the poll for third year running, scoring well in most metrics

London has been crowned the world's top city for students for the third year in a row, according to a new survey, with its increasing affordability one of the surprising factors.

The QS World Student Cities 2022 was compiled by examining a number of key metrics, including affordability, quality-of-life, the standard of universities, as well as the views of former and current students.

London topped the poll by scoring well in most categories, beating rival cities such as Paris, Melbourne and Montreal, which all dropped in this year's ranking.

London's growing affordability was a major factor which helped propel it to the top. A drop in the value of the pound has reduced the cost of rent and tuition significantly for foreign students.

The Brexit vote in 2016 caused the pound to drop sharply, hitting a low of $1.20 in August 2019. The currency has recovered since then but Britain still offers significantly better value for money than it once did.

London enjoyed sky-high feedback from students that have studied in the city, scoring 98.4 out of 100 for QS's Student View metric, a result surpassed only by Berlin.

It was also placed fourth in the Employer Activity metric, scoring 92.9 out of 100, meaning students have an excellent chance of securing gainful employment once they graduate.

In addition, its openness to international students was also ranked the world’s fifth best, with a score of 95.9 out of 100 for Student Mix, which measures the diversity of the student population.

London also boasts 18 world-class universities and colleges, with only Seoul having a higher number, with 21.

QS Best Student Cities in UK (Ranking)

  • London (1)
  • Edinburgh (12)
  • Glasgow (28)
  • Manchester (30)
  • Coventry (42)
  • Newcastle upon Tyne (43)
  • Birmingham (46)
  • Bristol (52)
  • Nottingham (53)
  • Leeds (55)
  • Sheffield (59)
  • Liverpool (61)
  • Aberdeen (67)
  • Brighton (88)
  • Leicester (91)

Jack Moran, a QS spokesman, said London's growing affordability has translated into robust applications to British universities.

“I think the UK is fairly well placed to continue welcoming international students in the future. Application figures are strong”, he told The National. “There has been a decline in interest from European countries, but this has been more than offset by a rise in non-EU applicants.”

He also said Australia has seemed “less appealing” after closing its border during the Covid pandemic, leading to uncertainty for students. This means universities in other anglophone countries, particularly the UK, have benefited.

Edinburgh performed strongly in the QS study, rising three places from the last survey published in 2019 to 12th. The Scottish city has long been a favourite with international students due to its large student population and the positive views of its graduates.

[London] still offers outstanding cultural, economic, and educational opportunities
Ben Sowter, QS Director of Research

The list, which was not published last year due to the Covid pandemic, included 15 British cities in the 2022 rankings. Of those, nine have improved their position since the previous survey. Four have fallen, while Leeds in 55th place was the sole new entrant.

Munich was deemed to be the second best global city in which to study, and was singled out for its high desirability, strong employment and positive graduate feedback.

Seoul in Korea and Tokyo in Japan came in joint third places.

Ben Sowter, QS's Director of Research, said: “With the value of the pound having fallen since our previous edition, international students seeking to study in London may find that the cost-of-living and relative cost of tuition are rather less eye-wateringly high than was the case before the UK left the European Union.

“While Brexit has created no shortage of new challenges for British higher education, we are observing one small prospective benefit in our Affordability indicator.

“Of course, this alone would not be sufficient to see London retain its number-one slot: only the sterling work of all those involved with its universities could have seen it perform so strongly across our set of indicators.”

Updated: July 28th 2021, 5:38 PM