Montreal nabs ‘best student city’ crown from Paris
The popular historical quarter of Old Montreal on Canada Day. Image via FOTOimage Montreal/Shutterstock.

Canada’s second-biggest metropolis has snagged the title of top student city out of 125 cities around the world for the latest QS Best Student Cities list, breaking the four-year streak long held by Paris.

According to QS, the country’s “cultural capital” of Montreal jumped from last year’s 7th place to the no. 1 spot after it outperformed all other cities in the six indicators used to determine scores, namely affordability, desirability, employer activity, rankings, student mix, and student view.

The final metric, student view, was newly introduced for this year’s list, and was based on a global survey of students and graduates, such as their thoughts on their home away from home’s social and cultural offerings, its attitudes toward tolerance and inclusion, and their own willingness to live there after graduation.

Here are the top five cities for students, according to QS:

1. Montreal 

St. Paul street in the Old Port. Image via FOTOimage Montreal/Shutterstock.

2. Paris

Students doing plein air sketches on the Pont des Artes. This pedestrian bridge over the Seine is very popular with students, artists, photographers and lovers. Image via Stephen B. Goodwin/Shutterstock.

3. London

Students hanging out in London, with the London Eye in the background. Image via Shutterstock.

4. Seoul 

Atmosphere in Seoul city , near Ewha Womans University subway station. Image via Chokchai Suksatavonraphan/Shutterstock.

5. Melbourne

Students relaxing at the State Library of Victoria. Image via Julian Peters Photography/Shutterstock.

Canada’s top-ranking university in the QS World University Rankings, McGill University, is proud of its city’s achievement.

Suzanne Fortier, McGill’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, said in a statement: “This ranking is a reflection of how highly our students, and the global workplace, value Montreal’s universities.

“It is also a validation of the city’s welcoming spirit and exciting creativity. Montreal is a place of coming-together: different languages and cultures, the arts and commerce, deep history and a visionary future. Our hometown is a special city, and students want to live and study here. It is particularly rewarding to get this kind of international recognition during our sesquicentennial year.”

Victor Frankel, an international PhD student at the university studying ecology and evolutionary biology, told McGill Reporter: “It’s a city that offers everything, from art to culture to diversity to multiculturalism. Having so many universities here is a huge asset because there’s a lot of potential for intercollegiate collaboration and the universities attract people who are very cosmopolitan.

“They have a voice and good ideas, and that helps to change the dialogue about important issues in the city – and changes the dialogue happening across the country. Montreal is a great place to be if you really want to think about having an impact.”

Ben Sowter, head of the QS Intelligence Unit overseeing the list, forecasts that Canada’s growing popularity will be part of an increase in “alternatives to the traditionally dominant study destinations, both in Europe and North America”.

“Canada will become a major player,” he said, adding that it was already attracting students from the U.S., while the U.K. could lose students to Ireland, the Netherlands, and the Scandinavian countries.

A spokeswoman for the city of Montreal was quoted by the BBC saying that there has already been a surge of international students – with big rises in student numbers from China, India, France, and Iran.

Paris remains a popular student city among students from overseas, as it only fell to second place.

QS also noted that despite concerns surrounding Brexit and how it would affect UK universities’ ability to draw international talent, London climbed two places in the list to make third place. The UK cities of Edinburgh and Manchester also appear on the list, at 18th place and joint 23rd respectively.

However, the education and overseas study specialists partly attributed the UK’s continued popularity due to the fall in the value of the pound, making it more affordable for international students.

When it comes to cost, which is a major deciding factor for many students who plan to study abroad, the most affordable cities on the list were Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur and Surabaya in Indonesia, while Stockholm in Sweden and New York in the U.S. were the most expensive.

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