With its 43rd place, Leuven is the only Belgian city that ranked in the top 50 of best student cities for international students. Brussels trails ten places behind, meaning it fell just outside of the top 50.
The top 3 of the recent QS ranking consists of London, Munich, and Seoul. The United Kingdom seems to have the most 'student city trumps' for international students.
Methodology Best Student Cities ranking
Provided that a student city contains over 250.000 inhabitants, and is home to at least two universities included in the QS World University Ranking, it receives a score by the QS Best Student Cities Ranking. These scores are calculated by means of six categories: university rankings, student mix (such as the number of international students and inclusivity of the city), desirability (liveability), employer activity (such as youth employment), affordability, and student voice.
KU Leuven is home to over 13.000 international students
The scores per category are determined in diverse ways. On the one hand, QS works with other rankings, such as the Globalization and World Cities Index of the University of Loughborough or the Safe Cities Index of The Economist. On the other hand, QS conducted surveys with students and employers. This resulted in a total score of 73.5/100 for Leuven.
The KU Leuven is home to over 13.000 international students, which counts for a fifth of its total student population. On the international stage, our alma mater can stand her ground. For example, the KU Leuven came 76th in the QS World Universities Ranking 2023. Moreover, as demonstrated in a previous poll by Veto, the students who study here are generally satisfied with the city council.
City council in symbiosis with the KU Leuven
Mayor Ridouani says that the city council and the university work closely together. In a previous interview, he asserts that the presence of the KU Leuven makes the city of Leuven more interesting and dynamic. Apart from this collaboration, the city council is committed to inclusivity, sustainability and citizen participation according to their ambitious policy nota Baanbrekend Leuven. This could be an explanation for a high score of Leuven on desirability and student mix.
There is a growing shortage of student apartments which leads to rising rental prices
Although Leuven often obtains high scores on rankings, there are still shortcomings. A report from the federal police, for instance, shows that Leuven has the highest crime rate of all Flemish centre cities. Furthermore, Flemish students mention the traffic chaos in which pedestrians, car drivers and bicyclists have to find their way together with the sometimes unclear traffic rules.
Finally, there are high rents for houses and (student) apartments in Leuven. That is the case for both students and graduates. In the case of students, there is the growing shortage of student apartments.
With its attractive positions on international rankings, it remains the question whether Leuven has sufficient place to house all students, and whether the city can retain recently graduated talent.