University may last just a few short years but it can shape who we are and the trajectory of our careers, as well as give us memories that last a lifetime. Most students have a fondness for the cities where they studied and will argue in favour of them decades later.

But what does the data say? We now have an answer, thanks to researchers at the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute (MPI), who crunched the numbers provided by Times Higher Education (THE).


Answer number 1

The first analysis from the MPI looked at cities with the most universities featured in the THE World University Rankings.

London and Los Angeles share top spot, both with four institutions in the top 100. Hong Kong, Boston-Cambridge and Berlin follow with three.

There are a number of cities that have two institutions in the top 100, such as Beijing, New York and Sydney. Others might be more of a surprise: Utrecht in the Netherlands and Atlanta both take a place.

You can view the full list, with the best universities in each city, here. There’s also a full explanation of the methodology.

Answer number 2

The MPI analysis then expanded to include the top 500 universities from the THE list.

Image: THE

London emerges as a clear winner. 3% of all top 500 universities can be found in the British capital. Paris takes second place, despite having just one institution in the global 100.

The rest of the list has a global feel, from Melbourne, to Hong Kong and Philadelphia.

Answer number 3

This is an answer to a question you’ve probably never asked. But it’s certainly an interesting way of looking at things.

Which cities have the most top universities per capita?

Image: THE

Stockholm takes top spot by a distance. Residents of Sweden’s capital enjoy 3.4 top 500 universities for every million residents.

The rest of the list is filled with major global cities. Large populations are balanced by a high number of top universities.

What makes a top university?

How does a university become ranked as one of the world’s best?

Image: THE

Helpfully, THE has created the above infographic that shows some of the underlying indicators. It shows the score for the top university in each region along with an average for the top 200.