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The most student friendly cities in Asia

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student friendly cities in Asia

Just like every year, the QS Best Student Cities Ranking has been published for 2017. This list ranks the best cities in the world for international students taking into account factors such as affordability, desirability, employer activity and student’s view. Some Asian cities have managed to rank a high overall score as well as a strong score in some individual categories on the list. See for yourself which Asian city topped the list and what they all have to offer to students.


1. Seoul

Seoul ranked as the 4th Best Student City worldwide. It managed to score the second place in terms of employer activity, which reflects the strong reputation Seoul’s university have amongst domestic as well as international employers, and the third place in the university ranking category, explained by the fact that 18 of Seoul’s universities are featured in the QS World University Ranking 2016-2017. Korean universities compete in attracting foreign students as these are a good source of revenue for universities and help improve their image on a global scale. However, despite being allowed to accept as many foreign students as they want, only 7% of the university population are international students. On the other hand, of all the graduates, 86% remain in the city after their studies. The top three universities in Korea are Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University. However, if your plan is to stay in Korea after graduating, being an international graduate from any Korean university gives you a huge boost to start your career. Compared to many other countries, employers in Korea will only look at your academics: which university you’re at, what grade you get and what qualification you have. English may be enough when attending an exchange or a masters program, but for general studies a decent level of Korean is needed and, thus, students are usually expected to take the TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean). Seoul is one of the most vibrant megacities in Asia and amongst the trendiest in the world. The city is hip, fashionable, fast-moving, always changing and home to more international students than ever before. The government wants to increase foreign student enrolment numbers from 85.000 to around 200.000 by 2023 and has therefore introduced policies such as easing visa restrictions, increasing employment support and expanding the number of programs taught in English. Korea also offers great employment prospects and starting salaries with most of Korea’s 15 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Seoul. Companies like Hyundai, Samsung and Kia also offer attractive career development programs to anyone joining their firms.


2. Tokyo

Tokyo, one of the world’s most populous urban areas, ranked 7th overall in the list. It claims the first spot in the employer activity category being on of the world’s three leading financial epicentres (alongside New York and London) and provides enviable professional and internship opportunities. The city also scores notably well in the desirability category, which considers both the overall quality of living in the city and how in-demand it is among prospective international students. Tokyo is home to 13 world-ranked universities and has three types of universities, national, public and private. National universities are run by the government, public universities by each of the Japanese prefectures and private universities are not run by the government, but may be subject to government regulations. Some universities offer courses in Japanese only whilst other universities offer both, Japanese and English courses. International students enrolling in a Japanese course are required to show proof of their proficiency in Japanese whereas international students from non-English speaking countries enrolling in an English course need to show proof of their level of English proficiency. Most universities offer free Japanese classes for international students since English is not widely spoken in Japan and Japanese is needed to get around in your daily life. Tokyo is a city of contrasts: giant, modern skyscrapers stand next to age-old, handcrafted temples that offers cutting-edge technology and innovation. No wonder Tokyo is home to some of the biggest international companies of the world like Toshiba, Toyota, Nikon, Honda and Fujitsu, to name just a few. Its labour market is quite broad with different job sectors, industries and companies. However, for those that do not have a high level of Japanese, the market is much more restrictive with only a few fields hiring foreigners. Also, expect a high work ethic at companies with employees being particularly hard workers and the expectation of taking part in work social activities such as going out for dinner or drinks with your boss and/or co-workers is quite high.


3. Hong Kong

Hong Kong almost made the top ten best student cities worldwide by ranking 11th. The city gets a high score in the university rankings category due to its numerous internationally ranked universities, as well as a strong score in the employer activity category, reflecting its status as an in-demand site for graduate recruitment. Its leading universities include the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, all of which rank within the global top 50 in the QS World University Rankings 2016-2017. All public universities use English as the language of instruction for their main courses. Diplomas and degrees offered in Hong Kong are recognised worldwide and the quality of education is deemed to be one of the best. Hong Kong is a fascinating cosmopolitan city with a lot to offer. It’s one of the world’s largest financial centres, an exemplary free trade economy and boasts one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. It is also a mecca for professional opportunities and studying in Hong Kong is a great way to increase your chances of successful future employment. Some multinational companies with headquarter in Hong Kong include the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, the Peninsula Hotels and the Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts.


4. Singapore

Singapore ranked as the 14th Best Student City worldwide. Singapore remains renowned for its growing prominence in the global higher education sector as well as its prosperity and low levels of crime and unemployment. In keeping with the city’s strong reputation, Singapore ranks 11th in the employer activity category with graduates being much sought-after by international employers. The downside to Singapore’s high standard of living is correspondingly high prices and it therefore ranks 4th as the most expensive city in the Mercer’s 2016 Cost of Living Survey, with tuition fees increasing especially for international students. Singapore has one of the best education systems in the world as government initiatives focus on the value and importance of educational innovation being part of the country’s economy. Its top universities are the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) which both rank in the top 15th QS World University Rankings 2016-2017. Also, many international universities have set up branch institutions in the country, offering a wide range of courses. The teaching language is in English and international students from non-English speaking countries will need to provide proof of their proficiency in English. As a world leading financial centre, Singapore maintains strong connections with the West and, despite being one of the most expensive cities worldwide, it remains one of the most popular expat destinations. Many multinational companies like DBS Bank, OCBC Bank, JTC Corporation and Singapore Airlines have their headquarters in the city whereas the port of Singapore is a major go-to port for cruise ships.


5. Kyoto – Osaka – Kobe

The combined metropolitan area of Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe is considered the 17th best student city in the world. The combined GDP of the area is so strong that if it was a country, it would be within the top 20 of the world’s economies. The area contains 7 universities ranked in the QS World University Rakings 2016-2017 with its top universities being Kyoto University (the 2nd highest ranked institution in Japan), Osaka University and Kobe University. In addition to its cutting-edge science and technological programs, it also offers international students a wide range of unique study opportunities like disaster prevention and anime and manga. The country’s financial support system for international students is one of the most extensive in the world, with plenty of scholarships available and job opportunities after graduation are plentiful. Some universities offer courses in Japanese only whilst other universities offer both, Japanese and English courses. International students enrolling in a Japanese course are required to show proof of their proficiency in Japanese whereas international students from non-English speaking countries enrolling in an English course need to show proof of their level of English proficiency. Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe is the perfect place for a student wanting to explore Japan away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. Kyoto offers city life on a smaller scale, with plenty of opportunities to explore both traditional and modern Japanese culture. Osaka has a long history of being an international gateway for trade, politics and knowledge and it remains a key economic and cultural hub. Kobe is another vibrant cosmopolitan city and strong economic hub with international companies such as Nestlé.



Other Asian cities worth mentioning that ranked in the top 30 of the QS Best Student Cities Ranking are Taipei, Shanghai and Beijing.

Ranking 21th, Taipei’s universities have been steadily climbing to greater global prominence in recent years, establishing the country’s capital as one of Asia’s leading higher education hubs with its most known university being National Taiwan University. It has also one of the highest scores in affordability due to relatively low tuition fees and living costs.

As China’s largest city by population, Shanghai is a huge global centre for finance, commerce, culture and education, ranking 25th. The city ranks high in employer activity and student experience, showing that the city’s prestigious universities, Fudan University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, are viewed favourably by both graduates and employers. The city headquarters innovative Chinese firms as well as leading international companies such as Coca-Cola, Mercedes and Nikon.

Home to two of the world’s top 50 universities (Tsinghua University and Peking University), Beijing ranks 30th. With notably strong ratings from domestic and international employers, Beijing’s universities are producing graduates highly valued in the workplace and thus earning a high score in employer activity. The city headquarters innovative young Chinese companies, whereas international companies, such as Siemens, Panasonic or Ford Motor Company, are setting up offices in Beijing to be a part of the economic miracle in the east.


Asia offers great opportunities for students to study at some of the best universities in some of the best Asian cities as well as great employment opportunities once graduated. And some of these cities even rank as the safest cities in the world.

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