Japanese Universities Struggling in World Ranking

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prof. Takashi Inui conducts his lecture in English at Osaka Metropolitan University in the city of Sakai in Osaka Prefecture in a video-shooting session.

Japanese universities continue to struggle in the World University Rankings, with only two establishments making the top 100 in 2023.

In 2013, the Japanese government set a numerical target of having “at least 10 universities in the top 100 in the next 10 years,” but The University of Tokyo and Kyoto University were the only Japanese universities ranked within the top 100 by Britain’s Times Higher Education (THE) magazine. The University of Tokyo came 39th and Kyoto University was 68th on the list.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Although some people voice doubts about rating education this way, the list is used by students to help them decide on where to study abroad. Schools also refer to the list to help choose collaboration partners.

THE ranked 1,799 schools in 104 countries and regions with performance indicators in five areas — teaching, research, citations, international outlook, and industry income. Schools ranked lower than 200 are not given individual rankings — they are included in a range, such as 201-250. While there are different versions of world university rankings, THE is often cited by government conferences.

While internationally prestigious universities in Britain and the United States tend to be ranked higher in THE’s list, Japanese universities scored lower in the areas of citations and international outlook due to lower numbers of English-language research papers and international joint research projects.

Osaka Metropolitan University, which was ranked in the 1201-1500 bracket in the 2023 list, aims to be one of 500 top universities in the ranking. Currently, only six Japanese universities — The University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, Tohoku University, Osaka University, Nagoya University and Tokyo Institute of Technology—were listed in the top 500.

In order to gain more international recognition, Osaka Metropolitan University plans to launch a video site as early as this summer to introduce lectures that are given in English. At the university’s Nakamozu campus in late April, officials filmed a lecture by Prof. Takashi Inui of the Faculty of Agriculture about a drug delivery system. It plans to release the video once editing has been completed.

The school has also started subsidizing expenses for proofreading faculty members’ English-language papers that are submitted to academic journals, and costs to cover the publishing of the complete documents online. In addition, publicity materials are prepared by native English speaking staff leading to more opportunities for coverage from overseas media.

“Upgrading the quality of education and research will lead to reforming the university,” said Masahide Takahashi, a special advisor to the university president, who is in charge of measures to raise the university ranking.