KUALA Lumpur has risen by eight places in the fifth edition of the QS Best Student Cities ranking, and is now in 41st place.
The table, recently released by global higher education analysts QS Quacquarelli Symonds, compilers of the QS World University Rankings, saw Paris lose its first place for the first time since the ranking began in 2012.
Montreal replaced Paris at the top of the list which ranks the world’s top 100 cities.
Cities are ranked according to performance in six composite indicators: Desirability, Rankings, Student Mix, Employer Activity, Affordability and, for the first time, Student View.
To be considered for inclusion, each city must have a population of over 250,000, and be home to at least two universities featured in the QS World University Rankings that year.
Based on these criteria, KL attained its highest position ever in the ranking which analysed 125 cities. Among KL’s main pull factors is the cost of living for students. According to QS’s Affordability metric, it is the world’s most affordable student city.
However, students in the city generally experience a below-average quality of life, according to QS’s Desirability metric. This measures a range of quality-of-living factors including pollution, safety and corruption levels.
Although KL ranks 74th, this is still an improvement of nine places over its Desirability score from the previous year.
The city also saw improvement in its Employer Activity score, which measures the likelihood of employers seeking to hire graduates from that city’s universities.
Its rank of 59th for Employer Activity represents above-average performance while in the inaugural Student View indicator, KL ranks 30th.
QS’s Student View indicator is based on the survey responses of 18,000 students worldwide.
Students were asked to name the city in which they would most like to study, their experience studying in a particular city, and their intention to remain there post-graduation.
About two-fifths (40 per cent) of surveyed graduates expressed willingness to stay in KL after their study period ended.
Taylor’s University vice chancellor and president Professor Michael Driscoll has welcomed this “excellent news for KL-based universities as well as the Malaysian economy”.
He said that the improved ranking will help to ensure more international students will make KL their destination of choice.
“KL can build on this success in a number of ways,” he said. “First, the student visa process should be improved, by making it simpler and faster to obtain a student visa.
“Second, there should be more investment in the social and leisure infrastructure for young people.
“Third, KL should be promoted as a fantastic hub for very low-cost air travel within Malaysia and the rest of the region.
“Fourth, KL-based universities should be supported and encouraged to rise higher in the international university league tables.”
Foreign students in Malaysia say they chose to come here because of the lower cost and many options available.
“There’s British, American and Australian tertiary studies to choose from, and it’s cheaper than Singapore,” said Fatima Soualhi.
The Algerian studying in INTI International College said she chose to come to KL because of the ability to obtain an international education from a city that is also a capital with much conveniences and experiences to offer.
“It’s great that my campus is located among all kinds of amenities, so I can get errands done or even enjoy some entertainment before, after or in-between classes,” she said.
Suleman Jamshed Qureshi, from Pakistan, said he wanted to study in KL because of its diverse environment which provided much social interaction and cultural activities.
“The city is well-developed and well-organised, and the opportunity to gain international exposure was also one of the main reasons that led me towards choosing KL to be the destination for my further studies,” he said.
Both he and Fatima, however, added that the rigid immigration rules meant that student visas were not provided for the duration of the course, and had to be renewed yearly.
Said Fatima: “This is quite an inconvenience as there is also a very long processing time for the students to receive their visas, and the students often do not know where their passports are along the process once it reaches EMGS (Education Malaysia Global Services), or when they will get the passports back with their visas.”
For Lihini Ratwatte, the decision to study in Malaysia was due to the closer connections with her home country of Sri Lanka, spiritually as well as physically.
Said the graduate of Monash University Malaysia: “I could have just chosen to go to Monash Australia but I felt that culturally, Malaysia would be more familiar to me.
“Experiencing culture shock is a very common phenomenon among foreign students, and I did not go through this during my stay in Malaysia. The university’s campus at Bandar Sunway also provided a dynamic and educational experience. I would highly recommend such experience to any aspiring foreign student.”
Lihini, however, added that the streets of KL could improve in terms of being less dangerous, especially to foreigners.
“I was a victim of mugging and I know a few other students who went through the same trauma,” she said.
“I remember an Australian student had his bag, including wallet and passport, snatched at Petaling street. This can be a demotivating factor for potential foreign students who wish to choose KL as an education destination.”