Boston, New York and San Francisco are most expensive cities for foreign students

by Ray Clancy on October 13, 2017

The offspring of expats often end up being international students, taking advantage to study for a degree abroad but they are facing higher living costs in key cities around the world with Europe generally cheaper than the United States.

Indeed, three cities in the US, Boston, New York and San Francisco are the most expensive in the world in terms of the cost of living, accommodation and tuition fees.


It costs more than US$5,500 a month in these three cities, some 20% higher than the next most expensive city which is Sydney in Australia at $4,700 a month and then London at $4,600 a month.

The data from the new analysis from Savills World Research using data supplied by, reveals that currency plays a big part in the costs for students. Living and studying costs in London have dropped as a result of fluctuations in the value of sterling making the city cheaper for international students. While Sydney is more expensive due to a strengthening of the Australian dollar.

Mainland European cities, however, stand apart for their affordability and are well positioned to attract cost conscious globally mobile students, according to the report, with Prague, Berlin, Vienna and Warsaw the cheapest cities in which to study.

Indeed, the analysis shows that tuition costs in these cities are minimal, accommodation costs are half the average of the 20 cities examined, while quality is improving thanks to increasing amounts of purpose-built student housing being developed.

The report points out that one of the biggest changes for students has been the rapid growth in international student numbers which has resulted in a growth in demand for high quality student housing across the globe.

But the type of accommodation they want varies by region. Data from shows that students from the Middle East and China typically want the longest tenancies, 90% and 87% respectively for a full academic year, which may increase accommodation costs for students from these regions.

Students from the US and Asia Pacific, including Australia, are most likely to rent for shorter periods. When it comes to room type preferences, there is relative uniformity across the globe. Students from the Middle East are slightly more likely to rent an entire property or studio, however, echoing their typically larger average budgets.

‘The optimum ratio for student housing varies not only by country, but by town or city. Many universities supply their own accommodation, but lack the funds or expertise to upgrade this to modern standards,’ said Marcus Roberts, director in the Residential Capital Markets team at Savills.

He explained that this has resulted in more private sector purpose-built student housing with developers listening to what students want in terms or amenities and price.

According to Luke Nolan, chief executive of, students will always opt for at least some level of privacy, especially for the space in which they sleep and being close to campus is the number one priority, even if this involves compromising on extensive facilities.

‘The most popular social spaces revolve around fitness, entertainment and study. Overall, students expect more and the industry loves delivering to student requirements, which drives an upward pressure on rents, especially since most mature markets still don’t have enough student housing,’ he added.

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