Top UK Cities By Education Rankings

Written by Pareeshti Rao

"You can make anything by writing" - a great man once proclaimed. On both a professional and personal level, I'd regard it as fuel for my soul.

August 23, 2022

With over 90 UK universities and colleges ranking in the QS World University Rankings each year, the UK has seen a large influx of international students enrolling at its universities and scattered across its cities. While your degree and university of choice are crucial, the city you dwell in will undoubtedly influence your choice of destination. Several global education ranking platforms, such as QS Rankings, THE Rankings, US News Rankings, ARWU, and others, have ranked the top cities around the world and in the UK for international students, in order to simplify the process. Based on a comparison of rankings over the past years, we’ve ranked the top UK cities with a youthful vibe below.

What makes a city livable? What are the factors on which cities are ranked or rated? What aspects of a city make it satisfactory for students to reside in? If you’ve pondered upon these questions in order to make an informed decision, we’ve got the answers below for you.

Factors That Influence A City’s Ranking

The QS World University Rankings are largely regarded as one of the most extensively read and reputable education rankings available. They also began publishing an annual Student Cities Ranking in 2014. Every year, they release a list of over 100 cities that provide the greatest student experience, based on a variety of criteria. Save the two years in the pandemic, i.e. 2020 & 2021, UK cities have been consistently ranked by QS Rankings since 2014.

The criteria that are relevant to a student’s life abroad that are taken into account by QS Rankings include –

  • Student Views – An yearly survey that gathers information about other students’ experiences/views in that city.
  • Student Mix – The number of students, especially overseas students, in the city.
  • Employer Activity – Whether the city has renowned graduate employers recruiting students.
  • Desirability – What makes the city attractive – based on aspects such as safety and the other available opportunities.
  • Affordability – This is inclusive of both, the tuition fees as well as the cost of living in the city (which can again be broken down into factors that account for your living expenses).
  • University Rankings The quality and variety of educational institutions in the city.

The top UK cities are ranked looking at the wider perspective and evaluate cities based on the entire student experience, unlike other surveys and rankings that frequently target individual universities.

QS Best Student Cities In The UK – 2019 To 2023

Take a look at the chart below to gain an insight into the top UK cities since 2019 according to QS. 

Source: QS Best Student Cities

As we can see from the table above, London is the best place to live in not only in the UK, but also worldwide, and this for three years. Edinburgh has been placed among the top 20 cities in the world and in the UK. While London and Edinburgh may be at the top of the list, you may note that some of these UK cities are located in the Northern and Midlands areas. We’ve broken down the individual rankings of these top UK cities below –

#1 London

London is a worldwide hub of excellence for education, with 23 major institutions and over 350,000 students. The city is a popular destination for students from all over the world. It is not quite surprising why it has consistently ranked among the best student cities in the world. It is a significant centre for music, history, and culture and gives students a great student life.

Popular Universities In London: Imperial College London, University College London, King’s College London, and the London School of Economics & Political Science.

  • 2019 Rank: #1
  • 2022 Rank: #1
  • 2023 Rank: #1

Score Chart Of London:

The table below displays the scores of London as a city for students based on their individual factors by QS Rankings for the years 2019, 2022, & 2023 –

Source: QS Best Student Cities

London has a reputation for consistently having one of the top overall scores due to the numerous benefits it provides to students. The city boasts excellent employer activity, a solid mix of foreign students, great potential for desirability, and outstanding university rankings. The city receives a high overall score due to these factors, which overshadow its affordability scores. Many students frequently swarm to the city to continue their studies and advance their jobs.

#2 Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a cutting-edge study destination, with over 40,000 students coming from all over the world. It is steeped in a centuries-long history and is home to 6 of the world’s top universities that have a great reputation. The city offers world-class facilities, a great cultural heritage, and scenic beauty. The city is more affordable in comparison to London which is a value-add for international students.

Popular Universities in Edinburgh: Queen Margaret University, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University, Heriot-Watt University

  • 2019 Rank: #15
  • 2022 Rank: #12
  • 2023 Rank: #10

Score Chart Of Edinburgh:

Source: QS Best Student Cities

Edinburgh’s universities have seen themselves in the top QS Rankings and this has been a major source of attraction for overseas students. The city scores highly on all of the metrics, with the exception of affordability, which received a slightly lower rating because of the high tuition costs for students studying outside of Scotland. The student voice indicator gives Edinburgh one of its top rankings, demonstrating that students in the city are clearly enjoying their time there and are frequently eager to stay after graduation.

#3 Glasgow

Glasgow, Scotland’s most populated city, is home to some of the world’s greatest institutions as well as a sizable student population. The port city is a key cultural and educational hub in the UK, noted for its excellent educational standards and student-friendly atmosphere. Being an old city, Glasgow’s top universities can trace roots to the 15th century, with Glasgow University being among the country’s and the English-speaking world’s first universities.

Popular Universities of Glasgow: The University of Glasgow, The University of Strathclyde, Glasgow Caledonian University

  • 2019 Rank: #39
  • 2022 Rank: #28
  • 2023 Rank: #25

Score Chart of Glasgow:

Source: QS Best Student Cities

Glasgow receives a good rating for student diversity because, like many other UK cities, it has a sizable number of overseas students. This gives students the chance to interact with others from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. Glasgow is a city on the rise, as evidenced by its outstanding rating for student perspective. The city is embracing the future after overcoming decades of neglect and inactivity and has been completely revitalised.

#4 Manchester

Manchester is one of the top UK cities for international students owing to its high-ranking universities blended with a wealth of activities to do, places to visit, and more. With a pleasant environment for students, the city is recalled for its diverse culture. Apart from being a crucial landmark for trade and commerce, the city has had a history of being the UK’s economic hub.

Popular Universities in Manchester: The University of Manchester, The University of Salford, Manchester Metropolitan University

  • 2019 Rank: #29
  • 2022 Rank: #30
  • 2023 Rank: #25

Score Chart of Manchester:

Source: QS Best Student Cities

Manchester, one of the top 30 greatest cities in the world to live in, is a vibrant, music-filled choice for any student wishing to experience university life. In comparison to the other major UK cities, it is reasonably affordable. Because so many students make use of university placements, the employability of graduates from the city’s institutions is excellent.

#5 Coventry

Coventry has one of the highest numbers of overseas students in the UK, accounting for more than 6% of the total population. 42% of Coventry students are from outside the UK, making this city home to one of the world’s largest international student populations, with students from all over the world and from a variety of backgrounds.

Popular Universities in Coventry: The University of Warwick, Coventry University, Arden University

  • 2019 Rank: #47
  • 2022 Rank: #42
  • 2023 Rank: #40

Score Chart of Coventry:

Source: QS Best Student Cities

With the greatest combined student population, Coventry has ranked first out of 100 cities for the student mix indicator. Coventry also receives high marks from graduate companies, owing to the high quality of its institutions and the city’s long history of leadership in manufacturing and design. Although tuition prices for foreign students are rather costly, rent and living costs are lower when compared to other student destinations in the UK, such as Manchester and London.

Thank you for reading this blog on The Top UK Cities. If you’d like to read more, check out these blogs that might be of interest to you –

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