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Close to major metropolitan centres but inclusive enough to exert their own sphere of influence, university towns and the thousands of students who mingle with the residents there create their own microclimate. Usually liberal and forward thinking, the cities listed here have culturally vibrant, well-educated populations and are often ranked as some of the most sought after places to live.

Cambridge, England
The ancient lawns and courtyards of the University of Cambridge have seen more than 800 years of student life, just few years less than its peer, the university town of Oxford. Back then there was much rancour between Cambridge’s residents and students, but now, with nearly 20,000 students who attend 29 colleges flooding the town every year, the histories of town and gown are inseparable.

In some parts of the city it feels as though time is standing still, with never-changing views of landmarks such as King’s College Chapel, Christ’s College Great Gate and the emerald expanses of the Backs (the colleges’ gardens) along the River Cam. In the spring when students are punting down the river and the fuchsia flames of the Judas tree brighten, it can feel like this is the corner that is forever England. But Cambridge, about 60 miles north of London, is also a hub for biotech and software R&D companies, with 1,500 companies employing more than 53,000 people in the surrounding area, dubbed Silicon Fen. Cultural attractions and events are numerous, from the famed Cambridge Footlights theatre troupe to world-class museums, such as the stunning modern art collection of Kettle’s Yard and the Fitzwilliam Museum, with a collection made up of paintings from the masters and antiquities from the ancient world.

The housing market is strong, with every type of property, including those in need of renovation, selling well, and the university affects the market greatly. “The colleges own a lot of property within the historic city core and this has led to a shortage of supply and a high ratio of applicants to properties,” said Ed Meyer, head of residential, Savills Cambridge. “Parents, often international, buy accommodation for their student children, and some of these parents will also buy additional properties for investment purposes.”

Some of the most desirable streets are near the train station in the south of Cambridge, sought after for their proximity to good schools and access to transport. To the west of the River Cam, “Newnham is like a village within the city”, Meyer said. “It has got very good local shops, bakers, butchers, a co-op and a great local pub, and it’s surrounded on most sides by green open spaces.” North of the river, the De Freville area has been in demand because period properties and quality housing stock here tend to be less expensive than homes south of the river. A two-bedroom house in Newnham costs between £350,000 and £580,000, while the average two-bed flat in the same area rents for between £1,600 and £1,750 a month.

Valparaiso, Chile
This Pacific port city 120km west of Santiago is home to four of Chile’s major universities, which are attended by undergrads from all over the country as well as international students from across the globe. Before the 1914 opening of the Panama Canal, Valparaiso was an important stopping point for travellers sailing between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, making the city an economic and cultural centre. Beautiful Edwardian villas and Art Nouveau mansions were built on many of the 42 steep cerros (hills) – the better to have grand ocean views – and the historic quarter is a Unesco World Heritage Site. The city’s many stairways and funiculars led upwards, even when the city’s fortunes tumbled during the 20th Century. Today, the crumbling walls and staircases are covered in vivid murals and political graffiti, and recently renewal has swept through Valpo, as it is called, with neighbourhoods like the waterfront Cerro Alegre being rejuvenated and properties being restored to their former glory. Students bring in money, and the bohemian nature of the city also attracts artists and architects who have helped transform the urban decay into something beautiful. Chile’s two main political figures from recent history, socialist president Salvador Allende and the dictator who toppled his regime 40 years ago, Augusto Pinochet, were both born here.

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