It may come as no surprise to anyone who has studied in Montreal, but the city has now been crowned the best student city in the world.
After a seventh-place finish last year, Montreal unseated fellow francophone metropolis Paris to take the top spot in the 2017 QS Best Student City rankings.
Paris dropped to second place, followed by London in third. The only other Canadian city in the top 10 was Vancouver, which was ranked 10th.
Headquartered in the United Kingdom, QS is perhaps best known for its World University Rankings.
Ben Sowter, head of the Intelligence Unit at QS, said the Best Student City Rankings is based on six metrics:
- Rankings: Where do universities in the city place in the QS World University Rankings?
- Student mix: The number of students in general, and the number of international students.
- Desirability: Includes factors such as safety, pollution, corruption.
- Employer activity: Are employers interested in graduates from at least one university?
- Student opinion and experiences.
Students surprised by Montreal experience
Sowter said this last metric is a new measure, and it helped propel Montreal into the top spot this year.
"For Montreal and other Canadian cities, the actual experience that people are having when they go there is much more positive than the imagination or expectation of it before they go," he said.
Sowter said those low expectations may be partly due to "a degree of modesty" that leads Canadian cities and institutions to play down their potential as destinations for international students.
"One of the things I've heard said about Canada is that, from a cultural standpoint, it's much less forthcoming in letting people know that it's there," he said.
"It doesn't necessarily speak about itself as assertively as it could do. They need to say, 'We're here, we have a very different political landscape, and we're open for business.'"
Trump, Brexit = opportunity
Sowter said such a shift in messaging could prove especially beneficial given the current political turmoil in the United States and the United Kingdom.
International students want to study in English, Sowter said, and Canadian universities shouldn't be shy to take advantage of the situation.
"I think today, studying at a U.S. institution or working as an academic at a U.S. institution looks a lot less attractive than it did six months ago," Sowter said.
"As a result, the opportunity for a Canadian institution that stands up and gets counted is considerable."
"It may not be showing in our results yet, but I think over the next two to three years, there's a reasonable likelihood that we will see a trend shift away from the U.S. and the U.K. as primary destinations, and towards alternative destinations with some similar characteristics — particularly around language."