Montréal Named World’s Best Student City

Montréal Named World’s Best Student City

Laura Bridgestock

Updated January 7, 2024 Updated January 07

In the fifth edition of the QS Best Student Cities index, published today, Montréal is named the world’s best city for international students – bringing an end to Paris’ four-year reign at the top.

Multicultural, bilingual, a regular contender in lists of the world’s most livable cities, and recently named Intelligent Community of the Year, Canada’s “cultural capital” performs well in all six categories assessed for the Best Student Cities index – including the new Student View component.

This new category is based on a survey of students and recent graduates, which collected over 18,000 responses in December 2016 and January 2017. Montréal comes out fifth in the Student View indicator, with a particularly strong rating for its arts and cultural offering, as well as for its friendliness, diversity and affordability.

Survey respondents praised the city’s multicultural, inclusive, creative and student-centered environment, while also commending its comparatively low living costs. One commented, “the city lives with/for students”, while others highlighted its “diverse opportunities”, “tolerant culture” and “vibrant clash of North American and European values”.

Silver lining for UK cities, amidst Brexit concerns

Montréal’s rise to the top sets a general national pattern, with four out of five featured Canadian cities improving their positions this year. Vancouver places 10th, Toronto 11th, Ottawa 26th and Quebec 72nd.

Similarly, German cities see an upwards pattern – Berlin climbs to sixth and Munich ninth – helped by the country’s policy of free education for all at undergraduate level.

Amidst ongoing concerns about the impact of Brexit, the index also brings good news for the UK. This is partly thanks to the fall in the value of the pound, which means British cities present a more affordable proposition for international students. London climbs two places to rank third, while Edinburgh is now 18th and Manchester joint 23rd.

The other five featured UK cities have also climbed, while other leading European destinations include Paris (now second), Zurich (15th), Vienna (16th) and Barcelona (23rd).

Asia’s leading entrant, Seoul, surges six positions to fourth place, followed by Tokyo (7th), Hong Kong (11th) and Singapore (14th).

Boston bucks US trend, while Australian cities lose former dominance

While many US cities have lost ground this year, largely due to falling affordability scores, Boston bucks this trend, climbing five positions to place eighth.

The city’s resilience is partly attributable to the fact that MIT and Harvard, in neighboring Cambridge, count towards its high performance in the University Rankings category. But Boston also attains notably high ratings in the new Student View category, reflecting students’ appreciation for the friendly, artsy and easy-going small-town lifestyle beyond the big reputations.

The US’s next representative, New York City, climbs one place to 19th, but the remaining 10 US entries have all fallen this year.

Affordability scores are also dampening the performance of Australian cities, which have previously tended to dominate the index. Yet, though all seven Australian entries have fallen this year, Melbourne stays strong in fifth place, with Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra all still within the top 25. 

Incorporating students’ real-life experiences

An index of the world’s best urban destinations for international students, the QS Best Student Cities draws on more than 20 sources to assess cities in six categories: University Rankings, Student Mix, Employer Activity, Desirability, Affordability and – new for 2017 – Student View.

The new Student View category is based on ratings from students and graduates with experience of studying in each city. Dasha Karzunina, the lead analyst for this year’s edition, says this was the final piece in the puzzle: “The student input not only adds a real-life perspective on studying in each city, verifying some of the other data-driven indicators we have, but also allows us to assess the more qualitative aspects of a city – such as how friendly and inclusive it is and whether it has a good nightlife.”

The survey also asked respondents to identify their ‘dream student city’, and the results of this question are used alongside a selection of quality of life metrics to compile the Desirability category. Comparing the most desirable cities with students’ ratings of their actual experience throws up some interesting contrasts – it seems the world’s most iconic and in-demand destinations may not always live up to expectations, while lesser-known cities often make for the happiest students.

Explore the student survey results in more detail here.

This year the index has been extended to feature a total of 100 student cities (previously 75). So what are you waiting for? Find out whether your city makes the list!

This article was originally published in February 2017 . It was last updated in January 2020

Written by

The former editor of, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'

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