The best university cities of 2018

What are the top student cities in the world? Analysis of THE data reveals where the world’s best colleges congregate

April 12 2018
Cityscape, town

Have you ever wondered which city contains the highest number of Times Higher Education World University ranked institutions? Well you’re in luck because we’ve analysed our top 200 and top 500 universities to see which cities have the highest concentration of elite universities. 

When looking at the top 200 universities, you will probably not be surprised to see London in joint first place, with six universities present. London is world-renowned as a popular destination for British and international students looking to benefit from a high-quality university education. Additionally, the close proximity of its institutions, and the University of London system, means that students attending these universities are able to utilise facilities across the city.

London is only matched by Boston-Cambridge (which have been grouped because of their proximity), home to some of the most prestigious institutions in the world, including Harvard University. Other cities that boast several top 200 universities are Paris, Hong Kong, Berlin and New York.

Cities with the most top 200 universities 

Rank  Cities Number of universities Universities
=1 Boston-Cambridge 6 Boston University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, Tufts University, University of Massachusetts
=1 London 6 Imperial College London, King’s College London, London School of Economics and Political Science, Queen Mary University of London, Royal Holloway, University of London, UCL
=2 Paris 5 École Polytechnique, Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris, Paris-Sorbonne University – Paris 4, Paris-Sud University, Pierre and Marie Curie University
=2 Hong Kong 5 Chinese University of Hong Kong, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, University of Hong Kong
=3 Berlin 4 Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, Technical University of Berlin
=3 Los Angeles 4 California Institute of Technology, University of California, Irvine, University of California, Los Angeles, University of Southern California
=4 Stockholm 3 Karolinska Institute, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm University
=4 New York 3 Columbia University, New York University, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
=5 Shanghai 2 Fudan University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University
=5 Beijing 2 Peking University,Tsinghua University 
=5 Bay Area 2 Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley
=5 Seoul 2 Seoul National University, Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU)
=5 Chicago 2 Northwestern University, University of Chicago
=5 Singapore 2 Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore
=5 Montreal 2 McGill University, University of Montreal
=5 Sydney 2 University of New South Wales. University of Sydney
=5 Barcelona 2 Autonomous University of Barcelona, Pompeu Fabra University
=5 Atlanta 2 Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University
=5 Melbourne 2 Monash University, University of Melbourne 

Something to keep in mind is that some cities are significantly larger than others, which could be one of the reasons why they have more top-ranking universities. This could explain why there are so many high-ranking universities in London and Paris, compared with other major global cities. 

Bearing this in mind, when analysing the data, we also looked at geographically close cities such as Copenhagen-Malmo-Lund, Brussels-Ghent-Antwerp and Amsterdam-Utrecht and found that many of these clusters also have high numbers of top-ranking universities, but to maintain consistency we omitted these from our final tables. The only one that still features is Boston-Cambridge as they are too close to each other to leave out. 


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If we widen the pool to look at the number of top 500 universities within a city, London once again takes the top spot with an impressive 15 universities. This is hardly surprising, considering London has one of the highest concentrations of higher education institutions in the world, with nearly 40 universities in total.

Paris comes in second, with 10 universities, while Boston-Cambridge again scores well with eight top 500 universities, Seoul and Melbourne are joint fourth with seven each. 

However, some slightly surprising cities also appear on the list, including Frankfurt, Moscow and Tokyo. If you’re looking for a university city off the beaten track, it may be worth checking out some of these cities before making your final decision. 

Cities with the most top 500 universities 

Rank City  Number of top 500 universities
1 London 15
2 Paris 10
3 Boston-Cambridge 8
4 Seoul, Melbourne 7
5 Hong Kong 6
6 Dublin, New York, Sydney 5
7 Barcelona, Berlin, Frankfurt, Chicago, Moscow, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Milan  4
8 Atlanta, Shanghai, Stockholm 3
9 Bay Area, Singapore, Beijing, Montreal 2

Best universities in the top university cities

Best universities in London
Best universities in Paris 
Best universities in South Korea
Best universities in Melbourne
Best universities in Hong Kong
Best universities in New York
Best universities in Los Angeles
Best universities in Singapore


If you want to see more of some of these top university cities, we will be sharing one a day on our Instagram page for the next week. If you want to share images of your university city and why you think it is the best, use #BestUniCity2018 so we can see and share them too. 

Read more: Best universities in the world 

Reader's comments (2)

I feel the report is biased as there is no mention about universities in New Zealand, which tops in high quality Education
Unfortunately, I have to agree with the previous comment that the report is probably biased. Concerning Germany, for instance, the ranking only mentions Berlin, and in the extended ranking, Frankfurt. The only German city with two Top 50 universities (not to mention the various research institutions situated there) is, however, Munich. Whereas Frankfurt only boasts 1 university-which is not even in the Top 100. So this ranking would misinform any foreign student planning to study in Germany.

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