While Boston, New York and San Francisco retain their positions as the world’s top three most expensive cities for international students, Sydney has landed in fourth place after overtaking London.
According to Savills Australia's World Student Housing cost of living, accommodation and tuition rankings, it now costs in excess of $5,500 a month in Boston, New York and San Francisco to be an international student. Sydney's monthly cost was recorded of $4,700, mainly due to a strengthening Aussie dollar.
Savills World Research calculated that living and studying costs in London have dropped to $4,600 a month as fluctuations in the value of sterling has made the city cheaper for international students.
Mainland European cities, however, stood apart for their affordability and were well positioned to attract cost-conscious globally mobile students.
Prague, Berlin, Vienna and Warsaw were the cheapest cities in which to study, on par with Shanghai. Tuition costs in these cities were minimal, accommodation costs were half the average of the 20 cities examined, while quality was improving thanks to increasing amounts of purpose-built student housing being developed.
Savills Residential director Marcus Roberts said 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," he said.
"This opens up opportunities for JVs and partnering arrangements with private sector operators to deliver housing that ticks the boxes with students, particularly in the under-served middle tier between lower-quality university stock and more expensive premium products.”
The rapid growth in international student numbers has underpinned demand for high quality student housing across the globe, but the type of product they want varies by region.
Data showed that students from the Middle East and China typically took the longest tenancies, 90 per cent and 87 per cent respectively for a full academic year, which may increase accommodation costs for students from these regions, while those from the US and Asia Pacific (including Australia) were most likely to rent for shorter periods.
When it comes to room type preferences, there was relative uniformity across the globe. Students from the Middle East were slightly more likely to rent an entire property or studio, however, echoing their typically larger average budgets.
Student.com chief executive Luke Nolan said students will always opt for at least some level of privacy, especially for the space in which they sleep and consistent feedback was that being close to campus was 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.
"Honestly, in the end, the winning factor was the community and not specs, so if you want to invest in anything, invest in the student experience," he said.