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Do students belong to Florida’s creative class? An empirical study of students’ expectations regarding city attractiveness

Stefanie Wesselmann (Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences, Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences, Germany)

Journal of Place Management and Development

ISSN: 1753-8335

Article publication date: 5 December 2018

Issue publication date: 15 May 2019




In a knowledge-based society, one of the main driving forces of prosperity at city and regional levels is the ability to attract students and recently qualified graduates. The purpose of this paper is to identify the urban factors that contribute to “attractiveness” from a student perspective and to subsequently analyse the influence of these factors on students’ location choices. In the corresponding case study, the criteria identified were used to evaluate student satisfaction with the German city of Osnabrück.


A multi-level empirical research concept was used to analyse the relevant criteria. Focus group discussions served as the basis to design and conduct a survey of almost 2,300 students in the university city of Osnabrück at the end of 2016. A follow-up study in November 2017 at two universities in Berlin provided data for comparison.


Accessible – safe – clean and with affordable housing: these terms sum up the core expectations that students have of an attractive city. In contrast to the findings of Richard Florida regarding the creative class, cultural opportunities, exciting nightlife and a multicultural population were not important factors among the survey participants.

Research limitations/implications

As the study was conducted in two cities only, the findings cannot be generalised. It should be replicated in at least five other cities to validate and compare the research findings presented here. Furthermore, this study focused on the factors influencing the attractiveness of the city as a whole. However, the attractiveness of a specific neighbourhood may be of greater relevance to the decision-making process. As housing plays a major role, students’ particular needs with regard to accommodation should also be examined at greater depth.

Practical implications

Insights generated by the empirical study provide relevant information that may assist city stakeholders in taking effective measures regarding place management to attract and retain students.


To date, little research has been undertaken to empirically examine the specific factors that German students look for when deciding where to study and live. The goal of this paper is to present new empirical insights concerning the quality-of-life factors that influence students’ decision-making processes.



The author thanks the vhw – Federal Association for Housing and Urban Development for supporting this study.

The author is also grateful to the anonymous referees who provided constructive comments on an earlier version of the article.


Wesselmann, S. (2019), "Do students belong to Florida’s creative class? An empirical study of students’ expectations regarding city attractiveness", Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 164-180.



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