Why does Tokyo University drop rankings every year?


The University of Tokyo, one of top universities in Japan, has dropped its rank from 39th place to 46th place, its lowest to date, according to the World University Rankings 2018 announced recently by UK educational journal “Times Higher Education” (THE). Why did that happen?

The annual ranking, published since 2004, is based on an overall evaluation and analysis of five items: (1) teaching ability, (2) research ability, (3) research impact (number of citations from articles), (4) international outlook and (5) income collected from industry.

The ranking for 2018 listed the top 1,000 universities from 77 countries across the world. The University of Oxford (UK) held on to the number one spot, followed by the University of Cambridge (UK). Third place was shared by California Institute of Technology and Stanford University (both U.S.), with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (U.S.) coming fifth. As in the past, European and U.S. universities virtually monopolized the top 10 spots.

Among the Japanese universities listed in the ranking, the University of Tokyo took the highest 46th position and Kyoto University placed 74th. They were the only Japanese universities to be named among the top 100. The University of Tokyo has been dropping its rank almost every year since it climbed to its highest 23rd place in 2014, falling to 46th in this year’s list.

One major reason for the Japanese universities’ uphill battle is that both “number of citations” and “international outlook” weigh heavily in the ranking, a factor that makes them disadvantageous both geographically and linguistically as compared to overseas universities. Especially when it comes to the number of articles cited in English, their evaluation tends to be lower than that of universities in English-speaking countries.

For example, the National University of Singapore, which placed 27th, or the highest in Asia, was evaluated lower than the University of Tokyo in terms of “teaching ability” and “research ability” but scored 79.7 in “the number of citations” to overtake the University of Tokyo which got 62.4.

Tsukasa Endo, an associate professor of Kogakkan University, said in Yahoo News, “Foreign people cannot cite papers written in Japanese. Even when their contents are highly rated, they cannot be referred to for citation.” He suggested in this regard that Japan should set up an institution that translates excellent research papers written in Japanese into English.
(Written by: Akinori Murashima)

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