10 Most Affordable Cities for Students in 2019
Given the high tuition fees and costs of living in many of the cities containing the world’s best universities, you may not be alone in thinking that you can’t possibly obtain a top rate degree in a prestigious university for an affordable cost. Let us prove you wrong!
In this article we’ll be counting down to reveal the world’s most affordable cities for students in 2019, based on the affordability indicator – one of the six used to compile the QS Best Student Cities index. Each of these cities contain at least two world renowned universities featured in the QS World University Rankings® 2020.
The affordability indicator takes into account the average tuition fees in the city’s ranked universities, as well the cost of living (using the Mercer Cost of Living Survey). It also considers the Big Mac Index and the iPad Index – giving further insight into the cost of living in each city.
Perhaps those of you looking for a great place to study abroad will be blown away by Hsinchu, the second city laying claim to the title, ‘The Windy City’ (the first, of course, being Chicago). Coming 10th for affordability this year and joint 68th overall in the QS Best Student Cities index, Hsinchu is an excellent option for those who want to study in Taiwan without all the hustle and bustle of a big city.
Hsinchu is one of Taiwan’s lesser known, smaller cities – with a population of 435,000 (as opposed to its capital, Taipei, which has over 8.6 million inhabitants).
With tuition fees for international students equivalent to US$2,900 per year, Hsinchu is definitely one of the cheaper options in the Best Student Cities index in 2019. For those thinking about studying abroad in Hsinchu, the city has two top rated universities, both featured in the top 250 of the QS World University Rankings® 2020: National Tsing Hua University and National Chiao Tung University.
This sunny South African city is ranked 78th overall in the Best Student Cities and climbed six places this year in the affordability indicator. The city is home to two institutions featured among the world’s top 550 in the world university rankings – the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Johannesburg.
Coming in at ninth worldwide for affordability in 2019, individuals in Johannesburg’s city center can expect to pay an average of US$471 in rent per month for a one bedroom apartment, excluding bills (according to Numbeo) and annual tuition fees of around US$2,300. The city also ranks 185th out of 209 cities in the Mercer Cost of Living Survey (where first place is the most expensive).
The capital city of the Philippines and one of the oldest cities in the world, Manila is ranked eighth in the world for affordability this year, as well as joint 85th overall in the Best Student Cities index. Manila contains four excellent universities, led by the University of the Philippines, which places joint 356th in the world.
With tuition fees averaging out at around US$2,400, and the city ranking 109th out of 209 in the Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Manila is a great place to get a top-quality education without breaking the bank. On top of this, Manila earns its best score in Student View this year, based on student’s experiences whilst studying in the city, and their perceptions of the availability and quantity of graduate employment.
With the exception of Wroclaw (where tuition is free), the Indian city of Bangalore, a new entry in this year’s Best Student Cities index at 81st, has the lowest tuition fees of all the cities on this list (only costing US$100 per year on average.) The city also has extremely low living costs – according to Numbeo, a one bedroom apartment in the city center, for example, will cost you an average of US$250 -- this is extremely low compared to cities such as London, where you’d be paying a monthly average of US$2,132.
Bangalore has two universities currently featuring in the world university rankings; the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and Bangalore Thapar University, with the former being ranked 184th in the world. It also ranks highly in both the student view indicator and the employer activity indicator, suggesting that Bangalore’s graduates are viewed highly amongst graduate employers.
Russia’s third largest city, Novosibirsk is packed full of parks and tree lined avenues, as well as being a major manufacturing and administrative center. It climbed six places to rank 92nd in the Best Student Cities ranking this year and is rated joint fourth for affordability, with tuition fees averaging at US$2,600 per year for international students. Living costs are lower here than in Moscow, with a single metro ticket for example only costing 22 rubles (the equivalent to only 35 US cents).
Ranking 73rd overall in the Best Student Cities index, Tomsk places joint fourth for affordability in 2019 along with fellow Russian cities Novosibirsk and St Petersburg. Tomsk gained the title of the ‘cultural capital of Siberia’ from the 1960s, when it was fill of artists, writers and film directors, and is still known today as a major educational, scientific and innovation center in Siberia. The city is home to two world-renowned universities, Tomsk State University and Tomsk Polytechnic University, which both feature well within the top 400 universities in the world. If you’re interested in studying at one of Tomsk’s leading institutions, international undergraduate tuition fees cost an average of US$2,600 per year.
=4. St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg is Russia’s second largest city (after Moscow, of course) and home to over five million people. Ranked 66th in the city ranking in 2019, it’s climbed four places in the affordability indicator to claim joint fourth place, with tuition fees at its three leading universities costing an average of US$2,600 per year. Students looking to study in this awe-inspiring city will be pleased to find out that the city’s cost of living is 28.2 percent cheaper than in Russia’s capital, Moscow, according to Numbeo. And although St Petersburg’s best score overall is for its affordability, its biggest improvement this year is in the student view indicator, rising 16 places in 2019, reflecting its popularity amongst students.
With sensational architecture and a plethora of diverse cafés and restaurants, Wroclaw, the fourth-largest city in Poland, comes third in the affordability indicator and is a new entry in the QS Best Student Cities index in 2019 at 108th. Students looking to study in Wroclaw will be pleased to hear that higher education is free for Polish students, and for international students willing to take the same entrance exams and to study a course taught in Polish. However, if you’d prefer to study in English, tuition fees are still much lower than you’ll find elsewhere. The cost of living in Wroclaw is also relatively low, with Numbeo estimating that the monthly rent for a single person living in the center will cost on average around US$597.
2. Kuala Lumpur
For the second year running, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital and largest city, ranks second in the world for affordability. Also featuring in joint 29th place overall in the best student cities this year, tuition fees at one of Kuala Lumpur’s five ranked universities will cost an average of only US$2,500 per year for international students. For those looking to live in the city center, a one-bedroom apartment will cost an average of US$568 per month (according to Numbeo). Kuala Lumpur also ranks well for affordability in the Mercer Cost of Living Survey, coming 141st of 209 countries in terms of expense.
Boasting three world leading universities, and home to over three million people, Hungary’s capital ranks first once again for the affordability category in 2019. Budapest also comes 43rd overall in the QS Best Student Cities, rising six places his year due to its improved scores in the desirability and student mix indicators (appearing in the global top 60 for both).
Budapest will cost international students an average of US$1,400 in tuition fees per year (much lower than many other study destinations). The city also ranks 164th out of 209 countries in the Mercer Cost of Living Survey. To get an estimate of the monthly expenses you can expect whilst studying in Budapest, you can use StudyinHungary.hu’s cost of living calculator, which also includes information on costs in other Hungarian cities.
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This article was originally published in July 2019 . It was last updated in January 2020