The best cities to study in across the World
Do you want to study abroad, but don’t know where to start? Join the club!
Going to university is a massive step into the unknown. For some, they might want to launch into something completely new and exciting by going to study in a completely different country. This can be incredibly rewarding, as while you’re enveloped in your studies, you can also learn first-hand about different cultures and ingratiate yourself in a totally new way of life.
The problem is, though, how do you know where’s best to go and study? In a world where a different country many miles away is a matter of a few more hours on a plane, we’re absolutely spoiled for choice about where we can travel to.
Not only that, but how do we know if this new city will be the best place for your studies? Are the universities good, will there be other people like me there, is it a safe and cost-effective place to live? All of these are factors to consider when choosing the best place to study abroad.
Thankfully, the team at Helpful Professor have you got covered in this department. We’ve looked at over 1,300 top universities across the globe, identifying 339 cities in 85 different countries to ensure that you have a robust guide to refer to so you can make the best decision possible for your academic future abroad.
The Best Cities for Studying Abroad
Looking at our huge list of cities across the globe, we had to find a way to rank each one for its ability to provide an enjoyable student experience that prioritises your ability to get the best grades possible.
Not only that, your ability to socialise and enjoy yourself in that city is crucial. You’re not just there to study, you’re there to live!
Bearing all this in mind, we compiled information from multiple different sources across the web to score cities for their ability to provide an enjoyable student experience. We eventually decided on seven different factors to decide this:
- Number of Universities in the city
- Average University Score within that city
- Average International Students Per University
- Cost of Living
You can find out in a little more detail how we found the information for these factors below, or if you’re just looking to dive head-first into the data, you can find it here.
Map of The Best Cities for Studying Abroad
Want to travel the world at a glance? Then take a look at our map of the best cities to study in across the globe.
You can travel the globe using our interactive map, just zoom in and out and click on the cities you’re curious about to see their scores.
Table of The Best Cities for Studying Abroad
Each ranking factor is given a score out of 10.
Top marks are awarded to those with the best scores in each category. For example, Paris in France has 20 universities, the most of any other city, so they receive a score of 10 for being the highest.
Factors are then combined, to give a total score for each city out of 100. You’ll notice that the highest mark is in the low 60s, and that’s because not every city is perfect. So if you’re looking for something specific in a city, say that safety is most important to you, then we would recommend looking at specific factors in this instance to see who came out on top.
So, without further ado, we present our best cities to study in.
Scores are weighted out of 10
1. Number of Top Universities
We mentioned that we looked at over 1,300 universities when conducting this study, so we decided to make the number of top universities within cities to be a ranking factor. The more the merrier when it comes to choice, right?
Cities with multiple top-ranking universities mean that there’s clearly going to be an ecosystem surrounding it that caters to that student population, so the bigger the better in this case.
When it comes to ranking these cities, it’s no surprise that capital cities come out on top. Most countries have a long history of young people flocking to the capital to receive their higher education, so that’s where all the top infrastructure is.
Paris, France, comes out on top in this regard, with a massive 20 top-ranking universities to choose from, while London in the United Kingdom and Moscow in Russia aren’t far behind, with 19 top universities apiece.
The top 5 cities with the most universities
- Paris, France
- London, United Kingdom
- Moscow, Russia
- Seoul, South Korea
- Tokyo, Japan
Each of these cities has a storied and well-respected history of providing advanced education to the masses, hence the sheer amount of choice within them. It’s also worth remembering that these are the amount of ‘top’ universities, the number of higher education institutions will be even higher than that!
2. Average University Score
While an abundance of choice is a plus, a city with many universities is great for finding like-minded students, but your grades could suffer if the quality of your education isn’t up the scratch.
So how can we determine what the best universities are within a city for receiving an education? The Quacquarelli Symonds rankings, of course!
Quacquarelli Symonds is a company that specialises in the ranking of higher education institutions, so they’re the best source to refer to on this issue. They score each university out of 100 regarding the education their students can expect to receive.
Taking that information, we took an average across all the universities within a particular city to see the general quality of education you can expect to receive if you study within that city.
The top 5 cities highest scoring universities
- Cambridge, United Kingdom
- Canberra, Australia
- Vancouver, Canada
- Delft, Netherlands
- Madison, United States
You might notice a pattern here, and that is that each of these cities is a one-university town. Perhaps less is more?
3. Average International Students
You’ve probably heard the statement, “birds of a feather, flock together.” Well, as an international student, it goes without saying that having other people in your company in the same situation as you will give you a better chance to settle.
Quacquarelli Symonds also thankfully gives an indication of how many international students attend certain universities. Using this, we can see what cities most international students flock to regularly.
If everyone else goes to study there, there must be something to it, right?
The top 5 cities for the most international students
- Sydney, Australia
- Vancouver, Canada
- Brisbane, Australia
- Toronto, Canada
- Coventry, United Kingdom
Sydney in Australia comes out on top when you consider this. On average, the city sees an average of over 18,000 international students per university, considering they’ve got three institutions in total, this is an incredibly impressive feat from them!
4. Cost of Living
A common theme for university students is having to live within their means, after all, there’s no money from full-time work to fall back on!
Numbeo provides excellent insight into the most budget-friendly cities, by ranking the cost of living for specific locations and comparing them to how expensive it is to live in New York City.
The top 5 cities for the cheapest cost of living
- Multan, Pakistan
- Faisalabad, Pakistan
- Bucaramanga, Colombia
- Islamabad, Pakistan
- Karachi, Pakistan
Pakistan features in 4 of the 5 places here, making it an incredibly cost-effective place to live. While a cheap cost of living is always preferable, it often falls foul of other expectations of living in a city, which is why we’ve created this ranking to balance out all other factors.
The top 6 cities for the most expensive cost of living
- Basel, Switzerland
- Lausanne, Switzerland
- Bern, Switzerland
- Santa Barbara, United States
- Geneva, Switzerland
- Honolulu, United States
You might wonder why we chose 6 for this, rather than 5. That’s because number 7 on this list is New York City itself, the benchmark for which we’ve ranked every other city on. Switzerland proves itself to be an expensive place to live, with four of its cities ranking at the top of the pecking order. Don’t let that stop you, though, the Swiss have a high minimum wage, so you can alleviate this problem by looking for a part-time job alongside your studies.
University students are often passionate about political and civil rights. Many will want to protest against injustice and care passionately about freedom for the people.
Therefore, it’s only natural that we include this as a factor for where you decide to study.
Using information provided by Freedom House, we looked at the countries that provided the most freedom to their citizens to understand how free someone would be to express themselves in each city.
The top 11 cities for the freedom that’s afforded you
- Gothenburg, Sweden
- Uppsala, Sweden
- Lund, Sweden
- Stockholm, Sweden
- Tampere, Finland
- Helsinki, Finland
- Turku, Finland
- Espoo, Finland
- Trondheim, Norway
- Bergen, Norway
- Oslo, Norway
If you’re wondering why we have a top 11 here, that’s because the three Scandinavian countries, Sweden, Finland and Norway, all received perfect scores - and thus, so did their cities!
When you’re new in an unknown city, it goes without saying that you would want to feel as safe as possible.
Numbeo provided the data on this, as they ranked a number of cities across the globe for the safety their citizens are provided from crime.
The top 5 safest cities
- Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
- Doha, Qatar
- Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
- Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- Bern, Switzerland
The United Arab Emirates was top in 3 of the 5 cities on this list and therefore rank as the safest. A large part of this is likely owed to its incredibly tough stance on crime, with many crimes carrying the death penalty as a result. It is worth noting that they have a zero-tolerance policy on drug use.
Let’s face it, no one wants to feel unwelcome. As most students are fairly young, being in a new environment can be quite frightening and moving to a place that will welcome strangers with open arms is far preferable to being given the cold shoulder.
While there’s no empirical metric for friendliness (we know, we looked), we decided to take inspiration from the iconic travel institution Rough Guides. They polled their audience of seasoned travellers to ask them where, in their experience, the friendliest cities in the world are.
The top 14 friendliest cities
- Glasgow, United Kingdom
- Dublin, Ireland
- Montreal, Canada
- Liverpool, United Kingdom
- Tokyo, Japan
- Vancouver, Canada
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- Manchester, United Kingdom
- Melbourne, Australia
- Budapest, Hungary
- Cape Town, South Africa
- Wellington, New Zealand
- Atlanta, United States
Using this information, we decided to award points on a gradient. The top 5 scored more points than the top 10, which then scored more points than the top 14.
The top 10 cities to study in across the globe
Each city may be top in one aspect or another, but when you look at them all together, you get a balanced experience. After all, what good is a city without crime if you cannot express yourself?
When comparing all the ranking factors together, we come to our definitive list of the best cities to study in. Here’s a little about our top 10 and why they managed to make it to the
1. Montreal, Canada
Montreal is a great city to study in due to its many educational opportunities and its vibrant cultural scene.
Montreal is also home to many language schools that offer intensive French or English courses to help international students learn one of the two languages commonly spoken in Canada.
Students can enrol in three top universities: McGill University, Université de Montréal and Concordia University. Special mention goes out to McGill University, ranking the highest of the three and proving itself a world-class higher learning institution.
Going to study in Montreal provides an enriching experience, exposing students to the rich linguistic and cultural diversity of the city.
2. Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo is one of the most exciting cities in the world to be a student and experience learning in a unique environment.
With bustling streets, vibrant nightlife, diverse cultures, and ancient architecture, Tokyo is full of opportunities for exploration and discovery.
A treasury of museums and libraries is at your disposal, as well as an absolute wealth of educational institutions - 13 to be exact! Tokyo ranks as one of the safest cities in the world, and with arguably some of the best cuisines on offer, Tokyo provides a safe yet lively environment for students learning both inside and outside the classroom.
Transportation is also convenient and affordable, allowing students the freedom to move around Japan quickly without breaking the bank.
3. Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver is an attractive city for students looking to study abroad. With a top institution in the University of British Columbia, you know that your education is in safe hands.
Its vibrant culture and art appreciation can be seen throughout its neighbourhoods. They even have a legal graffiti wall! Ranked highly for most international students, it’s a popular destination for travelling students. With the mix of cultures in the city and easy access to nature, it's a wonderful place to meet people from different backgrounds while learning and growing together.
Vancouver offers an exceptional experience with all its beauty and cultural benefits just a bike ride away!
4. Glasgow, United Kingdom
Glasgow is a fantastic place to study, with great universities in the University of Glasgow and the University of Strathclyde.
The city has a vibrant culture and is packed with amazing museums, galleries, nightlife and theatre venues. You can also explore numerous parks, the river Clyde and beautiful views of rolling hills, right in the heart of one of the UK's largest cities. Despite being one of the largest, students also benefit from lower costs, compared to other cities such as London or Edinburgh. They’re also friendlier too, at least according to our research!
Glasgow offers everything you need for an enriching experience while studying, you might even spot the famous Wellington Statue with a traffic cone on its head. An enriching experience, if ever there was one.
5. Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne offers international students exciting opportunities for study and exploration, with no less than 6 top universities in their midst.
One of which is Monash University which welcomes, on average, 30,000 international students into its halls each year.
Melbourne is known for its laid-back lifestyle, which makes it an ideal place for students to study in peace. With its quality education, multicultural atmosphere, and vibrant city life, Melbourne makes for a truly student-friendly environment.
In Melbourne, the people are warm and welcoming, the food and coffee are top-notch, and the nightlife is always bustling with energy. What’s not to love?
6. Munich, Germany
Munich is a great place to study, with two brilliant high-scoring academic institutions in the Technical University of Munich and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.
The city itself has plenty to offer students outside of the classroom, with top sights such as the Englischer Garten as well as a vibrant nightlife with plenty of restaurants and bars. The city also offers many museums and cultural attractions, so there will never be a shortage of things to do. For those wanting some good old-fashioned German beer, you’re in luck – Munich is home to the Oktoberfest celebration. Lederhosen are optional!
Overall, studying abroad in Munich is a fantastic experience for anyone looking not only for an excellent education but plenty of fun as well.
7. Sydney, Australia
Sydney is one of the most sought-after places to study in the world. It’s no surprise then that it ranks highest for the number of international students flocking there each year.
The city has three top universities in The University of Sydney, The University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney) and Macquarie University. With the iconic Sydney Opera House, beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife, there is something for everyone. Not only that, but a variety of industries, from tech startups to tourism, provide students with plenty of opportunities for work experience and internships.
Sydney is truly an inspiring location to pursue your education and jump-start a lifetime of learning and possibly even a penchant for surfing.
8. Manchester, United Kingdom
Manchester is renowned for its economic and political history, diverse cultural life, and vibrant student population.
It is a city that offers something to everyone, with easy access to all the amenities of a major international city, including a tram system.
There are two top-quality universities here: The University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University. The former of which is one of the top 40 universities in the world.
The lively atmosphere, combined with its own unique history, makes studying in Manchester an unforgettable experience… so long as you don’t mind a bit of rain!
9. Liverpool, United Kingdom
Liverpool is a great destination to pursue academic studies. The city is full of character, from the internationally renowned music scene (owing to The Beatles) to the charming landmarks scattered around the city.
Two top universities are located in the heart of Liverpool, The University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University, providing easy access to the city’s vibrant nightlife, restaurants and cultural sightseeing activities like the Albert Dock. Like Glasgow, students will benefit from the lower cost of living compared to London, but will still have plenty of opportunities for career growth.
Many will talk about Liverpool’s “Scouse charm”, the warmth of its local population is sure to be a key factor in helping you settle into the city.
10. Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen is an ideal destination for students who want to broaden their education.
Just the one top institution in the University of Copenhagen, the city offers an excellent quality of life, ranking highly in both freedom and safety. The city has much to offer in the way of picturesque views along winding canals to colourful street markets full of local delicacies. There’s stunning architecture around every corner, and the nightlife is vibrant, offering something for everyone.
If all that wasn’t enough, Copenhagen is also one of the most eco-friendly cities in Europe - so you can feel good about your choice of studying abroad!
Rankings given to each city were scored from 0-10 on a gradient. The top score for each category would receive 10 points, and then subsequent points would be based on a percentage of that figure. The only exception to this was Friendliness, in which cities were given a score of 0, 3, 6, or 9, depending on where/if they featured in the list.
Scores out of a possible 69 were then multiplied to give an overall score out of 100 for each city.
Data for the seven ranking factors were taken from the following sources:
- Number of Universities, Average University Score & Average International Students - Global University Rankings by Quacquarelli Symonds.
- Cost of Living - Cost of living index 2023 by Numbeo.
- Freedom - Global Freedom Scores by Freedom House.
- Safety - Crime Index by City 2023 by Numbeo.
- Friendliness - The World's Friendliest Cities by Rough Guides.
The full dataset detailing specific information for each city is available for the press upon request.