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Paris ranked ‘best student city’ in the world

Despite its reputation as a cripplingly expensive place to live, Paris once again tops the class in this year’s “Best Student Cities” rankings, published on Wednesday. The French capital narrowly edged out cross-Channel rival London to the title.

Paris ranked 'best student city' in the world
Paris beats London to the title of bestcity in the world to be a student. Photo: THomas Coex/AFP

Living in Paris has its well-documented downsides, not least the cost of accommodation and socialising, but when all’s said and done, there’s no place better in the world to be a university student.

That’s according to the results of this year’s QS “Best Student Cities” rankings, which placed  the French capital in the top spot for the second year running. The French capital edged London into second place, despite the British capital being described as a “nerve-center of global academia” by the report.

British education company Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) explained that Paris was top of the pile once again due to the high number of world-ranked universities, the low cost of tuition, and the attractiveness of the city itself.

“It has no less than 17 world-leading universities…comfortably more than any other city on the planet except for London, which has 18,” QS reported.

“And while Paris does have a reputation for being an expensive place to live, relatively low tuition fees mean that for students, it actually represents a more affordable destination when compared to many other popular student cities.”

“Parisian graduates are targeted by a vast range of employers across the continent… and students in Paris often enjoy extensive access to leading academics, with small class sizes and intensive teaching,” the report concluded.

Ben Sowter, head of research at QS added: "It was the performance of Paris's institutions in the QS rankings, the employability of its graduates and high quality of living scores that made the capital city, once again, the world's best student city."

SEE ALSO: Ten reasons why Paris is better than London

For Marc Montheard, Dean of Student Services at the American University of Paris, however, the study's conclusion was surprising.

"Obviously Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and quality of life here – if you can afford it – is second to none," he told The Local on Wednesday.

"But despite the low cost of tuition, and discounts and benefits for students, the reality is that Paris is still a very expensive city to live in," he added.

"As well as that, the job market is very tight for graduates at the moment."

"Paris is definitely of more benefit to international students who study here for a while, and can take their qualifications to a more thriving job market, than it is for French students who stay in France after graduating, many of whom are really struggling to find jobs."

With Singapore ranked third, Sydney took fourth place, finishing ahead of Australian rival Melbourne for the first time. The report pointed out, however that the two were closely matched, both boasting "a strong selection of universities, highly international student communities, and excellent ratings from graduate employers."

The former only surpasses the latter thanks to a slightly better quality of life.

Not surprisingly, Boston is the top-ranked US city, finishing in eighth place. "Its cluster of historic universities has earned it the nickname, 'The Athens of America,'" said the report.

"As well as its proximity to world leaders MIT and Harvard, the city also boasts a further five prestigious universities."

Montreal is next, finishing in ninth place, and the top German city in the rankings is Munich, which grabs 10th place.

Some new cities also made the top 50, such as Oslo, Auckland and Prague.

The QS rankings might come as a surprise to the folks at student magazine Etudiante.fr, who back in September came out with their rankings of the best cities in France to be a student. The French capital wasn't even among the top 10.

Click below to find out which ones were (and why), and which corner of France claimed the title of best student city in France.

 
 

French education officials and politicians will be heartened by the acclaim for Paris in the QS report, which comes after a series of lists that were interpreted by some as a damning indictment of the country’s university system.

In October, The Local reported how not a single French third-level institution had been included in the top 50 of the Times Higher Education Supplement’s “World University Rankings.”
 
At the time, the rankings’ editor Phil Baty suggested Gallic universities have been hindered by their reluctance to embrace the English language.
 
“With the global academic community increasingly using English as the language of global scholarship, these disappointing results are likely to intensify debate about the promotion of English in French institutions,” he said.

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READER INSIGHTS

‘Painful’ – is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Following a survey that said Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was the best in Europe, we asked Local readers what they thought...

'Painful' - is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Recently, Paris Charles de Gaulle was voted the best airport in Europe by passengers.

The 2022 World Airport Awards, based on customer satisfaction surveys between September 2021 and May 2022, listed the best airport on the planet as Doha, while Paris’s main airport came in at number 6 – the highest entry for a European airport – one place above Munich. 

READ ALSO Paris Charles de Gaulle voted best airport in Europe by passengers

Given CDG’s long-standing reputation doesn’t quite match what the World Airport Awards survey said – in 2009 it was rated the second-worst airport in the world, while in 2011 US site CNN judged it “the most hated airport in the world” – we wondered how accurate the survey could be.

So we asked readers of The Local for their opinion on their experience of Europe’s ‘best’ airport. 

Contrary to the World Airport Awards study, users erred towards the negative about the airport. A total 30.8 percent of Local readers – who had travelled through the airport in recent months – thought it was ‘terrible’, while another 33.3 percent agreed that it was ‘not great’ and had ‘some problems’.

But in total 12.8 percent of those who responded to our survey thought the airport was ‘brilliant’, and another 23.1 percent thought it ‘fine’, with ‘no major problems’.

So what are the problems with it?

Signage 

One respondent asked a simple – and obvious – question: “Why are there so many terminal twos?”

Barney Lehrer added: “They should change the terminal number system.”

In fact, signage and directions – not to mention the sheer size of the place – were common complaints, as were onward travel options. 

Christine Charaudeau told us: “The signage is terrible. I’ve often followed signs that led to nowhere. Thankfully, I speak French and am familiar with the airport but for first time travellers … yikes!”

Edwin Walley added that it was, “impossible to get from point A to point B,”  as he described the logistics at the airport as the “worst in the world”.

And James Patterson had a piece of advice taken from another airport. “The signage could be better – they could take a cue from Heathrow in that regard.”

Anthony Schofield said: “Arriving by car/taxi is painful due to congestion and the walk from the skytrain to baggage claim seems interminable.”

Border control

Border control, too, was a cause for complaint. “The wait at the frontière is shameful,” Linda, who preferred to use just her first name, told us. “I waited one and a half hours standing, with a lot of old people.”

Sharon Dubble agreed. She wrote: “The wait time to navigate passport control and customs is abysmal!”

Deborah Mur, too, bemoaned the issue of, “the long, long wait to pass border control in Terminal E, especially at 6am after an overnight flight.”

Beth Van Hulst, meanwhile, pulled no punches with her estimation of border staff and the airport in general. “[It] takes forever to go through immigration, and staff deserve their grumpy reputation. Also, queuing is very unclear and people get blocked because the airport layout is not well designed.”

Jeff VanderWolk highlighted the, “inadequate staffing of immigration counters and security checkpoints”, while Karel Prinsloo had no time for the brusque attitudes among security and border personnel. “Officers at customs are so rude. I once confronted the commander about their terrible behaviour.  His response said it all: ‘We are not here to be nice’. Also the security personnel.”

Connections

One of the most-complained-about aspects is one that is not actually within the airport’s control – public transport connections.  

Mahesh Chaturvedula was just one of those to wonder about integrated travel systems in France, noting problems with the reliability of onward RER rail services, and access to the RER network from the terminal.

The airport is connected to the city via RER B, one of the capital’s notoriously slow and crowded suburban trains. Although there are plans to create a new high-speed service to the airport, this now won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

Sekhar also called for, “more frequent trains from SNCF to different cities across France with respect to the international flight schedules.”

The good news

But it wasn’t all bad news for the airport, 35 percent of survey respondents said the airport had more positives than negatives, while a Twitter poll of local readers came out in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

Conceding that the airport is “too spread out”, Jim Lockard said it, “generally operates well; [and has] decent amenities for food and shopping”.

Declan Murphy was one of a number of respondents to praise the, “good services and hotels in terminals”, while Dean Millar – who last passed through Charles de Gaulle in October – said the, “signage is very good. [It is] easy to find my way around”.

He added: “Considering the size (very large) [of the airport] it is very well done.  So no complaints at all.”

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