University ranking site QS recently released a list of the top 50 student cities of 2014, declaring Paris to be the world’s number one city for student’s followed by Melbourne and London. Glasgow did not feature in the top 50 list.
The QS website states cities were selected based on the presence of ‘well-reputed universities, quality of life, employment prospects, a vibrant student community, and of course affordability.’ But the list has led to raised eyebrows owing to the questionable criteria employed in its compilation.
Despite QS’s claim that affordability played a key role in their selection of cities, both London and Paris were recently cited as amongst the most expensive cities in the world in a survey conducted by the Telegraph. Statistics from the online database site ‘Numbeo’ indicate that the cost of living in Paris is more than double that of Glasgow, although it could be argued that for students this cost is offset by French government subsidisation which caps the tuition fees of French universities at a lowly 300 euros per academic year.
Regardless, it seems significantly harder to justify London’s position in the top three given that QS themselves rated the capital as the least affordable of the 50 cities which appear on their list. With the average cost of living close to three times higher than Glasgow and tuition fees for various London universities exceeding £7,000 per academic year, at first glance London does not appear to deliver on the affordability supposedly reflected in QS’s list.
QS instead points to London’s plethora of reputable institutes of higher learning and its large student population, estimated to be as great as 450,000 as of 2013, a figure which constitutes approximately 6 percent of the capital. Whilst there are obvious advantages to approaching university life as a member of a large student community, proportionally, London’s student population is comparatively small, perhaps owing to the metropolis’ sheer size. The Glasgow student community, composed of the student bodies of the city’s numerous institutions is estimated to be 90,000 strong, accounting for close to 16 percent of the city’s population.
While the QS list perhaps represents a useful starting point for new students, it appears that if fails to address many of the social, and more crucially, financial realities associated with student living.