Student cities

There have been humans for a few hundred thousand years now, but a few years ago, something odd happened to our species. Somebody in Brazil, India or China got off a bus in a city, and started to look for work and somewhere to live. At that point,

probably in 2007, the human race became mainly an urban species. Up to then, most people had lived in the countryside.

Moving to the city has been the smart move for humans for centuries. The UK went mainly urban in the 19th century, and being “civilised” or “urbane” has always been

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the mark of the sophisticate. The city is where the jobs and the money are, where the culture is, where the action is.

This week QS published the world’s first analysis of top student cities. My own home, London, was vexed to be second to Paris. Still, scope for improvement.

There are plenty of places that have a good university but which are not among the 98 on our list. They either failed our population cutoff or had only one ranked university, below our limit of two.

This might seem unfair. But just as the big money and the big jobs are in the city, might the big educational opportunities be shifting there too?

For example, Oxford and Cambridge have long been regarded as the UK’s top institutions. Cambridge is top of the QS World University Ranking. But the Financial Times uses admissions to Oxford, Cambridge and University College LOndon as criteria in its ranking of UK schools. Along with Imperial College, also in inner London, UCL is regarded as an Oxbridge-scale player on the world stage.

Looking at the

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world’s top 10 universities, only three are in small academic-focused cities – Yale, Oxford and Cambridge. The rest are in London, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and the Boston/Cambridge (MA) conurbation. Great higher education will probably continue to exist in many settings, but might there be a trend for it to migrate into the city, just like the ambitious people on whom it depends?

About Martin Ince

UK-based science and higher education journalist, big strengths in universities and university ranking, futures, media strategy and training, Earth and space sciences
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