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The global decline of Japanese universities

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HIKONE, SHIGA PREF. - A glance at the World University Rankings, published last September by the Times Higher Education, reveals the following major changes in the rankings compared with the previous year.

Tsinghua University of China moved up to the 22nd position — the highest among institutions of higher education in Asia — surpassing the National University of Singapore, which was the top university in Asia for the previous five years but placed 23rd on the latest list. Ten Asian universities outside Japan — six in China (including Hong Kong), two in Singapore and two in South Korea — were among the global top 100.

As in the past, Japan had only two schools in that range: the University of Tokyo, placing 42nd; and Kyoto University, at 65th. While six Chinese, three South Korean and one Taiwanese universities were ranked between 100 and 200, no Japanese institutions were in that bracket.

The contrast is stark between the big strides made by Chinese universities and the poor performance of Japanese institutions. In 2013, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared that he would make 10 Japanese universities rank in the global top 100 within 10 years. Abe placed reform of the nation’s university education system among the priorities in his economic growth strategy, and set the numerical target based on the World University Rankings.

Indeed, that goal appeared to be within reach at the time. In the rankings published in October 2013, five Japanese universities ranked among the world’s top 200 — the University of Tokyo placing 23rd, the highest among institutions in Asia, Kyoto University 52nd, the Tokyo Institute of Technology 125th, Osaka University 144th and Tohoku University 150th. In subsequent........

© The Japan Times