By Ruth A. Pagell*
- Between 2004 and 2016 the number of Japanese institutions in the ARWU 500 dropped from 36 to 16 while the number of mainland Chinese universities rose from eight to 42. (Figure 28.1)
- More Japanese universities were in the 2004 combined THE/QS top 100 and 200 rankings than in the 2017 THE rankings (Table 28.1)
- The Imperial 7 are in the top ten Japanese universities for all rankings covered 1
(1 August 2017) This article follows up on the April News Flash, describing THE’s rankings of Japanese universities. This article looks at government initiatives and a variety of commercial rankings, emphasizing changes over time.
Japan’s higher education landscape.
Japanese higher education is challenged by an ongoing drop in the number of 18-year olds, which peaked in 1966 to half as many in 2016 and will continue to fall. Private and regional universities face the most pressure from the declining availability of local students. The system is further affected in global rankings by low numbers of international students (Table 28.2).
Higher education falls under MEXT, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. There are a limited number of English language reports. Unlike researching for the articles on India and Malaysia, news coverage in English for Japan is also limited.
In 2016, Japan had 86 national universities, 91 public local universities and 600 private universities. Eleven are considered Flagship universities. The Flagships include seven national “imperial” universities, established by the Japanese emperors between 1886 and 1939, three private universities and one institute of technology. Over 75% of the 2.6 million undergraduate students attend private institutions. 59% of the masters students and 68.5% of the doctoral students attend national universities (Japanese National Universities 2017).
Private sources of funding, often households, provide 65% of funding for all types of universities. 98% of women graduate from secondary education while graduation rates for women at the bachelor, masters and doctoral levels are below the OECD average. This is reflected in a male-dominated labor market. (OECD 2016, pg. 6).
Harayama and Carraz (2008) and Yonezawa and Shimmi (2016) track the changes in Japanese higher education that led to the 2004 incorporation of national universities as “independent administrative entities”. Other early 21st century initiatives include the formulation of the Toyama Pan (Shinohara (2002) and the formation of the 21st Century Center for Excellence Program covering 2002- 2004 and the Global Center of Excellence Program, funded from 2007-2009. Over 400 grants were given to over 90 institutions, the majority distributed in the first round.
Internationalization is MEXT’s focus in this decade through three projects:
“Global 30” Project for Establishing Core Universities for Internationalization
Go Global Japan -Programs that strengthen students’ ability at “playing active roles on the global stage”.
Top Global University Project, to strengthen global competitiveness and lead in internationalization
Appendix 28.A (Excel file) lists the 135 Japanese universities examined for this article and their status and inclusion in the various excellence and globalization schemes.
Accreditation is based on self-assessment and review by external review agencies. Institutional accrediting organizations in Japan include:
JUAA – Japan University Accreditation Association: Public and private universities
JIHEE – Japan Institute for Higher Education Evaluation: primarily private universities
NIAD-QE – National Institute for Academic Degrees and Quality Assurance: alternative degree options
JACA – Japan Association for College Accreditation: Primarily junior colleges.
Accreditation bodies for specialized professional programs also exist.
I examined current commercial rankings in addition to using the raw data in Incites and SciVal. I compared rankings over time from ARWU, since their 2004 ranking. I also tracked changes in THE and QS. 125 universities were in the top 50 of something or have been part of government initiatives mentioned above.
Yonezawa and Kobayashi (2002) trace the history of Japanese rankings from pre-World War II, when students ranked universities based on entrance examination scores. Asahi Shinbum first published Daigiku [University] Rankings in 1994 and continues to publish it today (Kobayashi, 2010). It is a book only in Japanese and available from Amazon. It has no composite score. The 2017 edition included 762 universities and ranks of over 60 primarily quantitative indicators. Current indicators are listed in English on the translated page and divided into categories such as Employment, Education, Study, including bibliometric measures from Clarivate Analytics and Elsevier, Finance and Society, which includes athletics.
Nikkei BP Consulting University Brand Image survey
2016-2017 is the tenth brand power survey. It includes 457 universities in nine areas but results are only shown for the Capital Region with University of Tokyo, Keio and Waseda showing the strongest images. NOTE: The page is in Japanese and I used a google translation.
Commercial Rankings – Scholarly
ARWU has used the same number of ranked universities and metrics since 2004. Table 28.3.A ARWU, shows the change in rankings from 2004 until 2016 as the number of top Japanese universities drops from 36 to 16.
Japan had the fourth most universities ranked in the 2004 ARWU. By 2016, it was ranked 9th in number of institutions per country (Table 28.3.B).
NTU Performance Rankings of Scientific Papers for World Universities (Previously HEEACT) shows a similar trend. 18 Japanese universities are covered in the 2016 rankings with two in the top 100. 32 universities are in the first 2007 ranking with four in the top 100. University of Tokyo fell from 13 to 23.
CWTS – Leiden Rankings presents the data from Web of Science and allows for downloading the data set. It shows output for the most recent ranked universities using different output periods AND it only includes publications in English.
Nature publishes special country reports. The 2017 Japan report ranks the top 100 institutions and uses “weighted fractional count” (WFC) for 2016 as its ranking indicator, an indicator accounting for multiple authors. The most current Global Nature Index is for 2016. The University of Tokyo ranked third in the global index. Seven Japanese universities ranked in the global 100 and 25 were in the ranked 1,000.
The index also shows the WFC for 2012 and the change in WFC from 2012. 18 out of the top 20 institutions showed a drop between 2016 and 2012. Because the overall index does not show a comparative article count for 2012 we do not know if the institutions are publishing less or collaborating more. See Ruth’s Rankings 7 for more information about Nature Index.
The index includes specialized science topics ranking the same top 100.
- Earth and environmental: Tokyo, Tohoku, Nagoya, Hokkaido, Kyoto
- Physical: Tokyo, Tohoku, Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo Inst of Technology
- Life: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Kyushu, Hokkaido
- Chemistry: Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka, Tokyo Inst of Technology, Tohoku
- number one and chemistry, with Kyoto as number one
- Institutions -Corporate, government not-for-profit, academic and healthcare
Google Scholar (Transparent Rankings: Top universities by Google Scholar Citations)
Hosted on the Webometrics website, the number of citations from the most highly cited authors for each institution are the basis for the rankings. This makes the rankings size independent. 205 Japanese institutions are included. All 16 of the universities currently ranked in ARWU are in the top 20.
See Table 28.4 for the Top 20 in the Scholarly Rankings. 29 universities from ARWJ, NTU, Leiden, Nature and Google Scholar are in one of these top 20. 14 are in the top 20 on all lists.
Commercial Rankings – Composite
THE and QS released a joint composite ranking in 2004 of the top 200 universities in the world. It included six Japanese universities. The companies parted company but continue to use similar metrics, including reputation surveys and international indicators. Table 28.1, THE and QS, shows the number of Japanese universities in the top 200 in 2004, 2011 and 2017. In the 2017 rankings, the number of Japanese universities in the QS top 200 rose to eight while the number in THE dropped to two. Both companies continue to increase the number of universities they cover so the total number of Japanese universities continues to go up. THE has a new Japan University Rankings 2017, with 292 universities of which 150 are ranked and an Asia ranking including the same 69 Japanese universities as in the world rankings.
The 2017 U.S. News Best Global Universities includes 57 Japanese universities, with one in the top 100 and four in the top 200. 44 have individual ranks. Eight more are ranked in Clinical Medicine, three in Materials Science and two in Plant and Animal Science.
SIR rankings include 236 Japanese institutions of which 173 are in higher education. I entered most of the SIR data based on 2016 data. A new upload in July 2017 changed the rankings but there are still only two in the top 100 and six in the top 200 out of over 170. Because of many universities receiving the same rank, a rank around 600 puts a university in the top 1,000 out of almost 3,000 higher education institutions,
U-Multirank scores 44 Japanese universities, based on availability of bibliometric data. The data for indicators submitted by the universities is limited.
Table 28.5, displays the top 20 composite universities for THE Japan and the world, QS, U.S. News Global, and SciMago Rankings. 13 are in all those top 20. Universities already in a top 20 with an A score for publication in U-Multirank are also listed plus the 1999 Asiaweek list. Five were top ranked in everything.
The decline in position for Japanese universities does not necessarily mean that the performance of Japanese universities has declined. Many of the rankings are not transparent. They present a score, often based on the top universities receiving 100 but not the underlying data. Example 28:1., using Leiden rankings, illustrates two key issues in the decline of Japanese universities in rankings. The 2017 Leiden rankings display the data for 2006-2009 and 2012-2015 for the most current rankings. The output for The University of Tokyo has remained relatively stable, but its rank for each indicator has gone down. The data highlight a more important weakness, not only for Japanese but also for Chinese universities. Output is strong but citation impact is not.
The relative position of Japanese universities is declining, especially in relationship to China. The old imperial universities continue to lead the Japanese rankings but they too are declining on the world stage. What is not clear is whether any of the government’s initiatives toward excellence and internationalization have made a difference. It is also not clear if forcing more English language and courting more international students is what is best for Japan.
- University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, Osaka University, Hokkaido University Kyushu University, Nagoya University and Tohoku University
See APPENDIX 28.B for a list of resources used for this article
A list of Ruth’s Rankings and News Updates is here.
*Ruth A .Pagell is emeritus faculty librarian at Emory University. After working at Emory she was the founding librarian of the Li Ka Shing Library at Singapore Management University and then adjunct faculty [teaching] in the Library and Information Science Program at the University of Hawaii. She has written and spoken extensively on various aspects of librarianship, including contributing articles to ACCESS –https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3238-9674 .