Paris ranked top city for students, despite shortcomings

PARIS -- Polling group ranks Paris as overall top student city in the world as French students rally at City Hall to demand improvements in the educational system.
Written by Bryan Pirolli, Correspondent (Paris)

PARIS – A new survey ranks Paris as the best city in which to be a student.  The QS rankings gather data, survey information, and publically available information to rank schools on different criteria.  Paris outranked other leading student cities worldwide in nearly all categories.

Paris has long been a major center of education ever since the medieval University of Paris started training the religious elite.  After more than 750 years, the Sorbonne, one of the university’s most famous divisions has become a household name worldwide as a premier pole of education in Europe.  Other schools like the prestigious Sciences Po have become training fields for movers and shakers in France and beyond.

While the notoriously affordable, yet seemingly disorganized school system faces constant criticism from students, it has fostered a harmonious living environment for students according to the QS researchers.  Focusing on four major categories, the survey rated schools on student diversity, employer activity, affordability, and quality of living.  The results also factor in how schools are ranked academically in each city.

While trailing cities like Vienna and Madrid in terms of affordability, and with Zurich and Munich ahead on quality of life, Paris still beat out top contenders London and Boston with the highest cumulative score.

As outsiders praise Paris for welcoming over 40,000 international students and for fostering a culture friendly to budget-conscious academics, university attendees are not sitting on their laurels.  With infamous protests in both 1968 and more recently in 2006, French scholars take their rights and services seriously.  In a recent public conference at City Hall, students outlined 49 proposals to better student life, four of which the government is looking seriously to adopt.

According to the city’s website, the mayor’s office will dedicate 500,000 euros to develop online networks to link the otherwise separate schools in the university system.  There is also an accepted proposal to integrate student life into the redesigning of the 13th arrondissement.  An innovative new student center will also be opened on a barge to be moored by the Latin Quarter

Most importantly, students voiced their concerns for more housing in the pricey capital.  Didier Guillot, adjunct for student life at City Hall, reported that Paris is continually supporting the addition of student housing, with between 1500-3000 units being added to the main student campus, the Cité Universitaire, over the next ten years.

Students studying at the University of Paris do face difficulty finding housing and making ends meet, but the benefits help quell the battle.  Genevieve Timmins, an American master’s student at University of Paris VII, appreciates the recognition that the city gives to students.  “I love going out on weekends armed only with my student ID and benefiting from free entrance to museums, reduced theater and movie prices, you can even find reduced lunch menus for students,” she said.

And despite the shortcomings of the public university, she still feels that the city more than compensates.  “I use the city of Paris and its student friendly cultural offerings in conjunction with my classes to make the most of my education abroad," she Timmins said.

Photo: Sophie Robichon

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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