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Montreal: the best student city in North America

Concordia’s hometown nabs a top spot in the 2016 QS rankings
December 1, 2015
By Sarah Buck

“In Montreal, I discovered new cultures through my friends who come from all different parts of the world, and I love that,” says Alison Bertho, a second-year journalism major, who came to Concordia from Paris.

Montreal is once again among the 10 best cities in the world for students, according to the latest international rankings by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS).

This year, Montreal moves up the list from number eight to number seven, behind Paris, Melbourne, Tokyo, Sydney, London and Singapore. 

It’s the third year in a row that Montreal has climbed in the rankings.

That performance is attributable to improvements in two of the five indicators, says Simona Bizzozero, head of public relations for QS. She points to the fact that the city improved in terms of affordability, moving up 10 spots compared to last year, and desirability, moving up six.

Indexed scores of safety, corruption and pollution are factored into the calculation of desirability, according to the report. A big determinant when it comes to the best place to study is whether it is an "exciting city rich in opportunity."

Montreal is certainly that, says Matthew Stiegemeyer, director of Student Recruitment at Concordia.

"There's a spirit of creative energy here that makes for fantastic research possibilities and fruitful collaborations with other universities, industries and the community at large."

Stiegemeyer points out that Concordia is committed to helping students get the most out of the opportunities afforded by the city — exemplified by the fact that one of the university’s nine new strategic directions is embrace the city.

“Our students are part of what makes Montreal a great place to live and study, as well as learn,” he says. “We know that some of the cultural offerings exist because they are active in creating opportunities like Art Matters, and that’s a chance to connect back to the city.”

Ask a Concordia student: why did Parisian Alison Bertho choose Montreal?

Second-year journalism major Alison Bertho says she’s not surprised Montreal fared so well in the global rankings.

Bertho came to Concordia from Paris — the city that tops the QS list. She agreed to help us fact-check Montreal’s claim to “best student city in North America” fame.

Q: Montreal scored high on affordability. QS takes into consideration the Big Mac Index and the iPad Index which reflect the price of those item in a given city. What’s your impression of the cost of living for students?

Alison Bertho: It’s very reasonable compared to other world-class cities like New York, where I have a friend who’s paying $1,500 a month to live with roommates.

Coming to Concordia does offer the opportunity to study abroad for people who don’t necessarily have the financial resources. That’s my case, since I come from a middle-class family. Though I really think it should be the Poutine Index in Montreal, not the Big Mac Index!

Q: What has been the best part of your experience studying in Montreal?

AB: The connections I’ve made. There are so many students and they come from all around the world. My first goal in coming here was to discover new things. In Montreal, I discovered new cultures through my friends who come from all different parts of the world, and I love that.

Q: QS measures desirability in part by looking at Trip Advisor’s History and Culture list. What does Montreal have to offer, from your perspective?

AB: What I like about Montreal is that it promotes a variety of experiences. Even in the winter, the festivals don’t stop — there’s Igloofest!

Recently the Opéra de Montréal made tickets available to a group of students for really competitive prices. Students from HEC Montréal and McGill were there too and the director of the opera himself gave us a tour before the show.

Yes, there are festivals, but there are many kinds of cultural events, including the opera and the ballet, and it is all accessible to students.

Q: What has been your favourite cultural moment in Montreal so far?

AB: Les Noctures at Le Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. It was so good! Montrealers love to party. There was a DJ and drinks, and you had access to the whole museum. It was such a nice concept.

Another thing I’ve grown to love is the coffee-shop experience. It’s different than cafés in Paris. It’s a nice vibe and a good way to give yourself a break from the library. My current favourite is Café Aunja, on Sherbrooke Street just behind the Henry F. Hall Building.


Thumbnail image by HBabet (Flickr Creative Commons).


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