A new ranking released today by QS – a global provider of specialist higher education and careers information and solutions known for its university rankings – has designated Paris as the world’s best student city in 2012.
A veritable beehive of student activity (the ranking considers that there are 16 universities and elite grandes écoles of merit in greater Paris), the French capital came in ahead of 49 other world cities that qualified for the ranking. Pre-requisites for participation are a city population of at least 250,000 and the ranking of at least two of the city’s educational institutions in QS’s flagship ranking, World University Rankings.
While the majority of current rankings give great importance to research performance, QS’s new ranking is student-driven, taking into consideration student mix (a snapshot of the student make-up of the city, favoring cities with a high number of students, especially international, and student facilities), quality of living, affordability and employer activity. The ranking also takes into account the collective performance of a city’s universities in the QS World University Rankings.
With tuition in many of Paris’s universities weighing in at an economical €1000 to €7000 per year for French students and €8000 for international students, affordability is likely one strong tipping factor in Paris’s favor. This same criteria clearly was a disadvantage for American schools whose tuition costs in private institutions can top $30,000, and also could explain why only one American city was ranked in the top 10 (Boston in 3rd place).
With French universities’ poor showings (compared to American and British schools) in important international rankings such as The Academic Ranking of World Universities (compiled by Shanghai Jiao Tong University) and Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings, this top ranking is welcome news to a French university system reputed as under-funded, fragmented and complicated, with many graduates competing for few jobs.
Yet, the QS results show that international and domestic employers cited great satisfaction (Paris scored highest in this category) with graduates of French schools when asked “Which universities in your experience have provided excellent graduates?’, proving that the system is still turning out students well-adapted for the job market.
And things are continuing to change. France is in the midst of a huge overhaul of its higher education system. The overhaul will create clusters of comprehensive universities known as IDEX (Initiatives d’Excellence), which combine the resources of universities, business schools, grandes écoles (elite institutions) and research associations. This will provide for more inter-disciplinary research and programs and allow the institutions to compete with their large reputable counterparts, like Harvard or Cambridge. Perhaps in a few years French schools not only will find themselves at the top of student city rankings, but also at the top of all the major educational rankings.
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