The University of Tokyo, which claimed top spot in the inaugural ranking, was one of 22 Japanese institutions in the top 100, the largest number of any country.
Despite the strong showing by the traditional research powerhouse, the Asia rankings reveal a more diverse playing field than is visible at the worldwide level.
Five countries or special regions (such as Hong Kong) feature in the Asia top 10, and overall 15 appear in the top 100 - including for the first time the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Malaysia.
Singapore and Hong Kong also came out on top when the territories of the region were ranked by average score per institution, placing first and second respectively.
Overall the rankings showed a concentration of excellence in East Asia. Taiwan’s strong university base was demonstrated by its 17 institutions in the top 100. China was represented by 15 universities, with two in the top 10 - Peking University at four and Tsinghua University at six. South Korea had 14 institutions in the top 100, with four of these in the top 20.
Analysing the results, Phil Baty, editor of Times Higher Education World University Rankings, said that despite its commanding performance, Japan needed to be wary of the competition.
“Evidence from the overall World University Rankings shows that the country is losing ground to its Asian rivals: its international network is too limited, and the funding available for its universities falls some way short of that being provided by its regional rivals,” he said.
The robust display by competitors such as Hong Kong, which had four universities in the top 20, can be attributed to the city-state’s strong economy, respectable levels of government funding and an “East meets West” outlook, added John Spinks, senior adviser to the vice-chancellor and director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Hong Kong.
India, meanwhile, has yet to see the fruits of its efforts to reform higher education. It had just three institutions in the top 100, all of them specialists and none in the top 20.
The rankings were based on the 13 performance indicators used to create the annual THE World University Rankings. All data were collected, analysed and verified by global data provider Thomson Reuters.