There’s already plenty to celebrate during Montreal’s 375th anniversary year, and now there’s yet another reason: Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) has named Montreal the world’s number-one student city. The global higher education analyst released its fifth annual QS Best Student Cities ranking on February 14, 2017.
Montreal jumped from last year’s seventh place to overtake reigning champ Paris, now the world’s second-place student city after four years in the top spot.
QS evaluated 125 cities to determine its Top 100 ranking. Each city was required to have a population of more than 250,000 and be home to at least two universities in the most recent annual QS World University Rankings. Three Montreal universities were in the 2016 rankings: McGill (number 30 in the world), Université de Montréal (126) and Concordia University (466).
Montreal’s improvement in the QS Best Student Cities ranking reflects gains in two of QS’s five traditional composite indicators – Affordability and Employer Activity – plus a strong performance in the new Student View category. The other three categories are University Rankings, Student Mix and Desirability. The breakdown of Montreal’s QS report card is available online.
The Employer Activity score reflects Montreal’s recent economic progress, which is outpacing that of Canada as a whole, driven by infrastructure investments and widespread gains across the service sector. QS’s metric takes into account a city’s unemployment rate, as well as how favourably international and domestic employers perceive graduates of a city’s universities. Montreal jumped 11 places in this category and now ranks 16th worldwide.
According to a 2016 study by the Chambre de commerce du Montréal métropolitain, there are more than 155,252 full-time university students in the greater Montreal area. More than 30,000 of them come here from outside Canada. One-third of the city’s international students study at McGill.
The new QS Student View indicator is based on 18,000 international students’ thoughts on their adopted city’s social and cultural offerings, its attitudes toward tolerance and inclusion, and their own willingness to live there after graduation. Out of all 125 cities, Montreal placed fifth for this metric.
“This ranking is a reflection of how highly our students, and the global workplace, value Montreal’s universities,” said Suzanne Fortier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “It is also a validation of the city’s welcoming spirit and exciting creativity. Montreal is a place of coming-together: different languages and cultures, the arts and commerce, deep history and a visionary future. Our hometown is a special city, and students want to live and study here. It is particularly rewarding to get this kind of international recognition during our sesquicentennial year.”
“While I find this amazing news, I can’t really say I am surprised,” said Ollivier Dyens, McGill Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning). “Montreal is a city where ‘Il fait bon vivre.’ Montrealers, like McGillians, are tolerant, gentle and creative and they welcome students and immigrants from all over the world with open arms. And we know from years of research that the most creative cities are also the most tolerant.”
On Wednesday morning, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and Quebec Minister of Higher Education Hélène David hosted a press conference at City Hall. Principal Fortier and the rectors of Concordia University, Université de Montréal and Université du Québec à Montréal also spoke.
Later in the day, Tom Mulcair, leader of the NDP, congratulated Montreal in a statement he read in the House of Commons. He praised Montreal for its cultural diversity, world-class universities, and the quality of life it offers residents. He went on to note that five Canadian cities appeared in the QS top 100, showing that “Our cities are global in every sense, and welcoming because, fundamentally, we are country of diversity, peace and inclusion.”
Canada is also a country of winter, and the QS Best Cities ranking comes during a week that saw 40 centimetres (and counting) of snow fall on Montreal. For many international students, their first taste of Canadian winter can be a shock – but the QS ranking suggests Montreal’s many charms handily offset its tough winters. A self-described “tropical flower,” Victor Frankel came to study in Montreal six years ago after living in Mexico City, Chicago, Santa Barbara and Panama. “I’ve lived in some amazing cities,” says the ecology and evolutionary biology PhD student, and secretary-general of McGill’s Post Graduate Students’ Society, “and Montreal is my favourite. It’s a city that offers everything, from art to culture to diversity to multiculturalism. Having so many universities here is a huge asset because there’s a lot of potential for intercollegiate collaboration and the universities attract people who are very cosmopolitan. They have a voice and good ideas, and that helps to change the dialogue about important issues in the city – and changes the dialogue happening across the country. Montreal is a great place to be if you really want to think about having an impact.”
Montreal is not the only Canadian city to improve its performance in the 2017 QS Best Student Cities ranking. Vancouver and Toronto, which last year tied with Boston for 13th place, are now 10th and 11th, respectively. Ottawa is 26, up from 49. The only other Canadian city to make the Top 100 is Quebec, which is 72. The overall Canadian performance benefited from gains in the QS Affordability indicator, which measures a combination of tuition fees and cost-of-living in each of the 125 cities covered in QS’s research.
Click on the thumbnail below to see how students reacted to the news.