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Two top Japanese universities drop in British magazine's world ranking

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The Times Uni ratings should be taken as a general guideline only - there is often more to a university than the accredited fields.

Interesting for example that this years Nobel Prize winner for physiology Svante Pääbo , is an adjunct professor at the Okinawa Institute of Science & Technology.

Those in the know, know that the university has a standout research program unlike anything else in Japan with the majority of teachers international and all courses, at least post graduate I think, are conducted in English. Where does it rank?

Similarly the tiny Akita International University consistently outstrips even Tokyo Uni for it's teaching quality, methodology, internationalism etc. All courses are conducted in English and it always ranks high in the Times ratings in Japan.

Both of these universities turn out exceptional young people with broadened horizons.

But who in Japan knows of them. There are others too.

And an interesting point to note - if you look at the country ratings you will notice that most of the Top in Japan universities have a woeful male to female student ratio. Many exceed a 2 : 1 M to F ratio and 3 : 1 is quite common - and even more.

And for those who slag universities - think very carefully about how this world we all live in would look if universities disappeared. Think everything from agriculture to tech to medicine to transportation - well everything.

9 ( +19 / -10 )

I guess I'm a bit skeptical here. But I often wonder about publications needed to secure a tenured position for foreigners in Japan. I've seen some really good textbooks, but I've also seen some really terrible textbooks with some foreigner's name on it, by a teacher who is supposedly tenured at a university. Makes me wonder how many teachers have secured positions based on the number of publications rather than the quality of publications.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

David Brent

It is well known in international academic circles how meaningless a degree or PhD is from a Japanese university

You're wrong. Japanese degrees in robotics, micro-engineering, disaster-resistance construction engineering and shipbuilding are valued very highly around the world.

Their agricultural degrees are also very much respected because they teach unique techniques for growing crops.

7 ( +16 / -9 )

The university rankings are mostly a scam, even the best recognized have a lot of troubles and use a lot of subjective or unconfirmed information that the own universities provide.

Still, they can be used as a very rough estimate of the priorities of the universities, which is why Japanese ones always end up doing poorly. Very limited efforts to get international students (even worse during the pandemic), low collaboration efforts, publications (if any) on scientific journals of low importance.

Recently the government has announced investments to promote the universities, but even with the extra money it will take a long time until the fundamental problems are properly corrected and it is possible that the money will run out before that happens so not many people are optimistic about it.

6 ( +14 / -8 )

Britain's University of Oxford ranked first for the seventh year running. 

Like many major UK politicians, Liz Truss went to Oxford. It may be the world's best, but is still capable of turning out some remarkably inept people.

6 ( +13 / -7 )

@Seigi I went to one of the universities in the upper zone of that list, I’m very compassionate, especially to those who have a chip on their shoulder for not attending themselves. Not everyone needs or wants to attend university, but it should be much more than an employment factory, it’s about personal development and achievement too, without that university is a waste of time.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

Despite the "Liz Truss" comment, my own university experience was fantastic and changed me as a person. However what was good about it could not be objectively measured and compiled into a league table.

I know this is supposed to be a ranking on academic terms, but even with scientific subjects, that's still going to be only part of the university experience. It is also possible, and possibly likely, that professors capable of the best research that scores well in these rankings are not going to be the best at teaching and/or inspiring undergraduates. The more hardcore the research someone is doing, the less likely they are to have passion and energy for the usual motley crew of freshmen. The vast majority of most people's experience at a university will be as an undergraduate, not as a researcher in some state-of-the-art facility.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

These universities need to get more foreigners in. Just like all the other good universities around the world

6 ( +7 / -1 )

The Ranking Up's and Down's doesn't matter - unless a dramatic fall of Grace. But, for the Student, you (hopefully) worked hard to get your Degree, and that in itself, should be an indication of the value of the bit of paper you end up getting.

5 ( +11 / -6 )

"evaluating their performance across the four areas of teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook."

Most of these top universities are flooded with money from alumni and big corporations so I can imagine how hard it is for other universities to crack into the top 200. I've heard that many students are actually better off attending a much smaller institution where there is much better access to profs.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Large student debts, teach things like CRT, Gender studies, and other meaningless degrees that won't help you find a cure for diseases or build a bridge or perform surgery. I think there was even an American university that offered courses in "twerking". SMH

There are some silly courses out there.

What was your major?

I worked with a few Todai graduates - most from science or engineering courses. Our translator was a Kyoto University graduate from a Law background. All clever and nice people.

One particularly clever woman bailed out sharpish and landed a top job abroad.

Don’t blame her.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Aren't campus freedom and research ethics considered as points for the ranking? Universities under authoritarian regimes sometimes appear on the list.

4 ( +10 / -6 )

It's ironic, these Japanese tiger parents push there kids from practically babies until adults, under constant stress and pressure to get into one of these Japanese universities and they turn out to be second rate anyway.

Japanese love to big up their universities, they bang on about this and that university etc, and they don't make any international lists.

Do international lists really matter to a graduate if you live in Japan and get your job in Japan? Do you own a major company and only accept top international college graduates from Top 100 schools?

4 ( +9 / -5 )

I am always amused by people who make disparaging comments about Todai etc...

Odd that you only hear this from those who didn't quite make the cut.

4 ( +14 / -10 )

The top 10 was dominated by British and American institutions

So, basically all the places that have:

Large student debts, teach things like CRT, Gender studies, and other meaningless degrees that won't help you find a cure for diseases or build a bridge or perform surgery. I think there was even an American university that offered courses in "twerking". SMH.

4 ( +11 / -7 )

No surprises here. Main reasons: 1) too much hiring of own PhDs in Japan's universities, 2) intellectual stagnation due to lack of inflow from outside Japan, 3) too much pressure to publish (literally, anything) in higher impact factor journals (regardless of quality of paper/research), 4) idea that college education is simply about getting/granting credits for classes (which are often easier than syllabus states), 5) funding cuts for Japan's national public universities initiated by the Liberal Democratic Party.

3 ( +12 / -9 )

Asia's top university was Tsinghua University in China at 16th place, followed by Peking University at 17th

Yeah, it's easy to at the "top" when you have students who are known for stealing other countries' research work and sending it back to the mainland.

3 ( +10 / -7 )

The University of Pyongyang has a great ballistic missile faculty.

2 ( +15 / -13 )

Interesting. When you say 'hard working', what do you mean?

I'm talking about final year undergrads and masters students working in labs on research projects. Their hard work was doing experiments on original research projects, preparing papers, reading and understanding journals and research papers relevant to their research and participating in group presentations where they would present their research findings to others in their group - these presentations would be done pretty professionally too - like they were presenting at a conference. I can't speak that much for lectures, but from my experience, Japanese students are pretty passive in that environment - they won't volunteer answers to questions etc unless really pushed.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

TokyoLivingToday  09:25 am JST

And what could you expect? That a western publication didn't put their western universities in the first places??, it's pathetic, LOL !!..

Of course you can provide an expert view on why the top Japanese universities should be ranked more highly.

1 ( +8 / -7 )

There will be a lot of variation depending on university and subject. I worked in some pretty high level national universities here and found the level of the students to be excellent. They were very hard-working - final year undergrads and grad students would be in the lab at 9 am and wouldn’t leave until at least 10 pm Monday to Friday and 9 am to 5pm on Saturday - those were core hours and they often stayed later - they worked solid for those core hours too. That’s way more than typical students would put in at Oxbridge! They could also put together an excellent thesis and publish in top level international journals. Weak points in my experience are the obvious lack of internationalization and also they don’t seem to be big on collaborative research here. It is just my experience in one area of one subject though.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Mostafa Sultani HussainiOct. 14  06:15 pm JST

I consider Tokyo university 2nd best university in the world after Oxford university and that is because my English language is a lot better than my Japanese, if I knew as much Japanese as English I would have favored Tokyo university as the best university in the whole world. One university I almost have no respect for is Harvard university, and also their graduates.

I am a graduate at top of my class from Oxford and Tokyo universities.

The best.

Pretty flimsy argument, though.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The Ranking Up's and Down's doesn't matter - unless a dramatic fall of Grace. But, for the Student, you (hopefully) worked hard to get your Degree, and that in itself, should be an indication of the value of the bit of paper you end up getting.

Exactly, Education is what you make of it.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

"Two top Japanese universities drop in British magazine's world ranking..."

Amazing! Education is really important no matter what level your university is at. As long as you try as hard as you can.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I’m a retired prof at a prestigious university, so I can’t be accused of either ignorance or sour grapes when I express hearty agreement with those skeptical of the ratings racket. I’d sooner trust a chap in dark glasses evaluating telephone scam artists.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Britain's University of Oxford ranked first for the seventh year running. 

Oxford University is made up of some thirty-odd colleges, each with its own character. For the purposes of ranking, they are all considered together as ‘Oxford University’.

London University is also made up of separate schools and colleges, and for the purposes of ranking they are considered separately - King’s College, LSE, UCL, etc.

Some of the larger colleges make the ranking in their own right, but the smaller colleges that focus on specialist studies, while being of a very high level, are too small to make the rankings. If all the colleges were considered together, I’m sure London would rank much higher; perhaps not on a level with Oxford, but very close.

The same could be true of other universities around the world.

In other words….ranking ain’t the whole story.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Lack of internationalization has been mentioned as a reason in previous rankings. Harvard, for example, employs/recruits top scholars from all over the world, same for students, while Tokyo U. has few non-Japanese teachers and students.

-3 ( +11 / -14 )

Third biggest economy, that’s the scale which counts, not any phantasy university rankings which are obviously simply based on a combined level of wokeness and distance from the two commonwealth centers.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

The student body of the big universities in Japan is still almost entirely made up of domestic students who don't really care about international rankings. International students on the other hand really care about those since they are often trying to choose a university to study at abroad often want a means of comparing them across countries, which these rankings aid.

Five of the six Japanese universities named in the article base their reputation mainly on the fact that until 1945 they were among those designated as "imperial" universities. This is an idiotic thing to be judging universities by in 2022, but that historical cache still carried a lot of weight in Japanese society, so students want to go to those universities because future employers recognize them as "good" schools.

The international rankings have a lot of problems too, but at least they aren't as arbitrary as that.

Because of Japan's declining population though, this is becoming less and less sustainable - even the big universities are starting to realize that ignoring these rankings comes at a cost in their ability to maintain student numbers through international admissions as domestic ones inevitably decline. Its not surprising that Tokyo and Kyoto are going down in the international ranking though since they are the "top" Japanese national universities and don't have the same pressure to compete as slightly lower ranked ones do.

-4 ( +8 / -12 )

My school landed on #20. Other rankings have us higher, but that’s an argument for another day. U-C-L-A Fight Fight Fight!!!!!

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

I consider Tokyo university 2nd best university in the world after Oxford university and that is because my English language is a lot better than my Japanese, if I knew as much Japanese as English I would have favored Tokyo university as the best university in the whole world. One university I almost have no respect for is Harvard university, and also their graduates.

I am a graduate at top of my class from Oxford and Tokyo universities.

The best.

-4 ( +6 / -10 )

At 39 and 68 that is a very long hull to the top 20 but little closer to the top 50.

Good luck to all involved.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

@Mostafa Sultani Hussaini,

Thanks for that!

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

their positions fell after their performance declined in categories related to their learning environments and the number of citations in published papers.

Learning environments, most of Japanese universities just keep doing what they always did so learning environment just won't change while other universities world wide keep changing and adapting.

Citation in published papers, many of them just being evaluated on how many published papers not actual use of that paper, that's how they just keep publishing no matter actual impact and citation of their publication.

-6 ( +8 / -14 )

Top universities produce the least compassionate human beings in the world.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

All you need to do is strike up a conversation about the state of current global ( even domestic ) affairs for you to realize the state of education and critical thinking skills being attained here. Things are getting taught, but they are being delivered in such a dull and boring way that the instinct to lifelong learning and curiosity is turned off at an early age. Learning is a chore. There are a few diamonds amongst the rough but generally speaking, the school system from JHS to uni is a holding pen. ( elementary schools seem ok, then something very weird happens )

So many overworked and overburdened teachers and self-important lecturers just going through the motions, never been inspired themselves, its a vicious cycle with grave consequences for the future of the nation. Emergency level.

-7 ( +9 / -16 )

It's ironic, these Japanese tiger parents push there kids from practically babies until adults, under constant stress and pressure to get into one of these Japanese universities and they turn out to be second rate anyway.

Japanese love to big up their universities, they bang on about this and that university etc, and they don't make any international lists.

If your kid gets into Oxford or Cambridge, yeah I'm impressed Tsukuba university, hmm, not really.

-8 ( +24 / -32 )

Universities are a scam, the rankings are a scam, the entire premise of 'continuing' education has been proven to be nothing more than a money making venture. Just look at how universities were breaking laws just to bring in rich overseas students in a country during the pandemic.

Vocational training is where it's at in terms of advanced education. Japan's rail industry of old (ie not contemporary), the current oil and gas industry has got the appropriate ingredients for a modern advanced economy, ie industry training.

I started as an apprentice, ie NOT a qualified engineer, but I have had university trained engineers reporting to me for the last 2 decades, even when I'm only a part time contractor./consultant. Because the only way to intimately, passionately understand what you're working with, is to do the work, make mistakes, find solutions and think about the future. Universities are only good for making you rules sticklers.

-8 ( +7 / -15 )

Why on Earth would Japanese universities be ranked highly? They have one purpose, and one purpose only: to churn out corporate slaves. That's why students don't take their studies seriously and instead focus on social activities like getting drunk with their club and circle members.

-8 ( +17 / -25 )

Not good Japan students.

-9 ( +5 / -14 )

It is well known in international academic circles how meaningless a degree or PhD is from a Japanese university; unless you intend to work for a Japanese company in Japan forever. The quality of the MA and PhD theses I have read here have been pretty atrocious.

-10 ( +11 / -21 )

Well, when the entire education system never evolves or improves in anyway, dirty payments, corruption at the top and sexism running rampart, what else would you expect?

In fact, it's a wonder they are even in the top 100.

-11 ( +6 / -17 )

Shocking that Japanese universities even made this list.

-12 ( +14 / -26 )

In its World University Rankings 2023, the University of Tokyo fell from 35th place the year before to 39th, while Kyoto University slumped from 61st to 68th.

Slump? Give me a break. 4 or 7 places is hardly a catastrophe given the number of universities in the world.

If you're looking for a scapegoat, try the protracted and discriminatory border closures which meant students couldn't get into the country to attend them.

-12 ( +3 / -15 )

Letsberealistic" Tell it how it is! True to your name.

-12 ( +3 / -15 )

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