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7 Arab Cities Are Among the World’s Best for Study Abroad, QS Finds

Seven cities in five Arab countries were included in the 2023 QS Best Student Cities ranking. The list was released this week by the London-based global higher-education consultancy QS Quacquarelli Symonds.

Driven by high praise from students who have studied there and a strong appeal to prospective students, Dubai is the best city in the Middle East for students studying abroad, according to the rankings’ tenth edition.

Dubai rose this year to 51st globally, out of 140 cities ranked, compared to 65th place out of 116 ranked last year. The United Arab Emirates is also home to the Middle East’s next-highest-ranked student city, Abu Dhabi, which also rose this year, to 71st place.

Cairo was the third-highest-ranked city in the Arab region, in 94th place, up from 109th place last year. It is the only city ranked in an Arab country in Africa.

Rankings Based on Student Opinions

The QS Best Student Cities ranking provides students with independent data regarding a range of factors relevant to their study-abroad decisions. These include affordability, quality-of-life, the standard of universities there, and the views of students currently studying in that destination.

To be considered for inclusion, cities must have a population of over 250,000 and be home to at least two universities featured in the most recent QS World University Rankings.

The rankings are based on cities’ scores on six metrics: university rankings, desirability of the city, affordability for students, employer activity, student mix, and student voice. The 2023 edition was informed by the views of 98,426 survey respondents.

Best Middle Eastern Student Cities

The United Arab Emirates is home to the Middle East’s two highest-ranked cities for study abroad: Dubai, in 51st place, and Abu Dhabi, in 71st place. Cairo, in 94th place, is the highest-ranked city in an Arab country of Africa.

Besides Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Cairo, QS ranked four other cities in Arab Middle Eastern countries this year. They include Riyadh, in 99th place, Beirut (105th), and two Jordanian cities new to the list this year: Amman (113th) and Irbid (139th).

Dubai achieved the Middle East’s highest score for student mix, which assesses the diversity and scale of a city’s student population, and for desirability as a city to study and live in, placing 33rd in the world.

Abu Dhabi boasts the Middle East’s highest score on the university rankings metric, placing 77th in the world for this metric.

Amman boasts the region’s best employer activity score (52nd place), suggesting it enjoys the strongest employment prospects in the region for its graduates. Irbid is the most affordable student city in the Middle East.

In a news release, Ben Sowter, a senior vice president with QS Quacquarelli Symonds, said: “The Middle East has undergone massive economic growth in recent history, and this is reflected in the booming employer prospects for students who study in its major cities.”

He continued: “Good quality of life, sound infrastructure, and outstanding amenities further contribute to its success by elevating the esteem in which it is held by students who have studied there, who are increasingly complimentary of their study experience.”

Africa’s Best Student Cities 

Based on their affordable living and study expenses and improving diversity in its student population, Cape Town is the best African city for students in this year’s rankings, placing 78th.

Cairo (94th overall) had the highest score in Africa for employer activity (62nd place).

“The Middle East has undergone massive economic growth in recent history, and this is reflected in the booming employer prospects for students who study in its major cities.”

Ben Sowter A senior vice president with QS Quacquarelli Symonds

“Cairo and Cape Town have shown a marked improvement in this year’s rankings,” said Sowter. “However, as a continent, the number and quality of its universities holds Africa back,” with only Cairo in the top 100 on the university rankings metric.

For the continent to make further improvements, Sowter said, “the focus must be placed on enhancing its higher-education offerings.”

Top 20 Student Cities Worldwide

This year’s ranking found that the world’s cities are broadly becoming less affordable for students by QS’s measures.

Germany, Australia and the United Kingdom each are home to two of the world’s ten best student cities. London remains in the top spot, a place it has held now for four consecutive editions of the ranking.

It was followed by Seoul and Munich, which shared second place. The top 20 also include, in order: Zurich (in fourth place), Melbourne, Berlin, Tokyo, Paris, Sydney, Edinburgh, Boston, Hong Kong, Singapore, Montreal, Toronto, Vienna, Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe, New York, Lausanne, and Vancouver.

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In Latin America, Buenos Aires was the top-ranked city, placing 23rd in the world.

After Paris, Amsterdam and Stockholm (tied for 21st place) were the top-ranked cities in continental Europe. Barcelona was Spain’s top-ranked city, in a three-way tie with Adelaide, Australia, and Taipei, Taiwan, for 31st place.

The top cities in the two Asian giants, China and India, were Beijing (29th) and Mumbai (103rd). The top-ranked Asian city outside the top 20 was Kuala Lumpur, in 28th place.

The results showed that the fastest rising cities were Kazakhstan’s Almaty, which rose 30 places to 75th place, followed by Abu Dhabi and Ankara (77th), both rising 21 places.

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