Top ten universities in the overall ranking are situated in nine different Japanese prefectures

The World University Rankings is an annual publication by Times Higher Education (THE). The Japan-specific edition of the rankings was first released in March 2017, so this year marks its fifth iteration. In contrast to THE’s World University Rankings, which are largely focused on the research power of individual institutions of higher education, the Japan-specific rankings are more focused on the quality of education and growth potential for students–taking teaching practices and unique characteristics of each school into account as well.

Continuing from last year, the 2021 index ranks 278 Japanese universities based on a number of performance metrics grouped into four main pillars: Resources, Engagement, Outcomes, and Environment.

Let’s begin with the 2021 Overall Ranking. Numbers in parentheses denote each university’s ranking on the 2020 list.

Overall Ranking
10. Hiroshima University, Hiroshima Prefecture (12)
9. University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture (9)
8. Kyushu University, Fukuoka Prefecture (5)
7. Nagoya University, Aichi Prefecture (7)
6. Hokkaido University, Hokkaido Prefecture (6)
5. Osaka University, Osaka Prefecture (8)
4. Kyoto University, Kyoto Prefecture (2)
3. University of Tokyo, Tokyo (3–tie)
2. Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo (3–tie)
1. Tohoku University, Miyagi Prefecture (1)

▼ Tohoku University consists of four main campuses spread around Sendai–the political, economic, and cultural heart of northeastern Japan.

Next, let’s take a look at the top three universities according to each of the four pillars.


“Does the university have the capacity to deliver teaching effectively? The resources area represents 34 percent of the overall rankings.”

3. Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, Kyoto Prefecture
2. Hyogo College of Medicine, Hyogo Prefecture
1. Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Tokyo

▼ TMDU is located in the heart of Tokyo and not that far from Akihabara.


“Does the university engage with its students effectively? The data in this area are gathered through the High School Advisors Survey and the Japan Student Survey. The engagement area represents 30 percent of the overall rankings.”

3. Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Oita Prefecture
2. International Christian University, Tokyo
1. Akita International University, Akita Prefecture

▼ Bibliophiles are sure to be enchanted by the stunning library at Akita International University.


“Does the university produce graduates that the market wants? How strong is the university’s reputation nationally? The outcomes area represents 16 percent of the overall rankings.”

3. Kyushu University, Fukuoka Prefecture
2. Tohoku University, Miyagi Prefecture
1. Kyoto University, Kyoto Prefecture

▼ Kyoto University was founded in 1897 and has produced the most Nobel laureates of all universities in Asia.


“Does the university make efforts to attract an international student body and faculty? Does it prepare students for the global market? The environment area represents 20 percent of the overall rankings.”

3. International Christian University, Tokyo
2. Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Oita Prefecture
1. Akita International University, Akita Prefecture

THE stresses a need to highlight the appeal of Japanese universities from multiple angles to degree-seeking students from around the world due to Japan’s shrinking population (and in turn, those pursuing higher education). The organization also hopes that the rankings can be used internally by universities to focus on targeted areas of educational reform.

While we’re always pleased to see the off-the-beaten-path Tohoku region get a little recognition, we’re also somewhat conflicted that THE hasn’t added a fifth pillar centered on “Cosplay” to its evaluation processes yet. Then again, Kyoto University would undoubtedly take the cake for that pillar year after year.

Source: Times Higher Education via PR Times
Top image: Pakutaso
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