Melbourne lifestyle wins but at a price

It might be one of the best cities in the world to be a student, according to international rankings by Quacquarelli Symonds, but Melbourne is not all it’s cracked up to be say some residents. Melbourne was beaten only by Paris, London and Boston, according to the QS Best Student Cities 2012 list, which took into account the quality and number of universities, as well as affordability and quality of life.
Vienna came in at number five, followed by Sydney, Zurich, Berlin, Dublin and Montreal. Australia is the only country with two cities in the top 10. University of Melbourne student union president Mark Kettle, 21, said that while the city offered an affordable and exciting lifestyle to students, rent was a serious problem. Kettle had moved out of home to go to university in the city at 17 – only to be forced back to his parents’ place a few years later.
“I chose Melbourne because I was attracted to the idea of going to uni in the city. It was the sense of activity and life. When you are 17, 18, you see it in the media, you watch it on TV, you’re attracted to the idea of the activity and the events and the never-ending lifestyle,” he said.  The city itself has a lot of options for students. “There are many bars that have cheap nights, there are pubs that are quite cheap, there are gigs and events, not to mention places like Brunswick Street, Smith Street, Sydney Road, all of which [are financially] accessible compared to places like that in Sydney, even around Newtown and Glebe,” said Kettle.
But the cost of rent is simply too much for many students, said Kettle, who now lives in the city’s southern suburbs with his parents. “Obviously Sydney is even more expensive, but there is a serious lack of student housing in the inner city. I lived in the inner city for two years and couldn’t afford the rent.” Rent stress was a common problem for students and tended to affect other areas of their life, he said.
“If you have high rent, you need to earn more money, but if you’re on Youth Allowance you’re put under pressure over how many hours you can work,” he said. Students on Youth Allowance may earn up to $236 in a fortnight before their payment is reduced. “So you’re stressed about that, and you’ve got to be. You’ve got to study, maintain your social life … It can be quite a downward spiral.”
Esther Hood, president of the Monash Student Association, said that universities needed to do more to support students in their on-campus lives. She comes from Rutherglen, in Victoria’s north, near the border with NSW, and said her parents had encouraged her to attend university in Melbourne because “it was a great experience, and you become your own person”. But while she loves living in the city, most of a student’s life was spent on campus and that was where the focus needed to be.
“I think although Melbourne is a great city, your university experience is dictated by which university you attend,” she said. “It’s my opinion that at Monash the inclusion of students in decisions that affect their experience is tokenistic. We have a range of fees on campus such as parking that students can’t afford and this can detrimentally affect your student experience. I think that those things are clearly important – the cost of living is hard for all students.”
To qualify for the QS Best Student Cities list, a city must have a population of more than 250,000 and at least two ranked educational institutions. Cities are ranked by 12 indicators in five categories: rankings, student mix, quality of living, employer reputation, and affordability. 

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