The rankings, now in their second year, were produced in partnership with Japanese education company Benesse.
The Japan University Rankings were calculated based on four broad “pillars” (resources, engagement, outcomes and environment). They differ from the THE World University Rankings as they are more focused on what institutions offer students rather than on research data. Click here to read the full methodology for the Japan rankings.
This year, for the first time, THE also carried out a student survey on a trial basis to find out what students think of the teaching at their university. While the results did not feed into the main rankings this year, they will be published later in the year.
Japan is a country that successfully maintains ancient traditions alongside its identity as a nation of technological innovation. This kind of contrast may also be seen in the country’s higher education institutions as they develop their research output and international outreach while preserving Japan’s cultures and values.
Top five universities in Japan
Scroll down to view universities in the top 150
=1. Kyoto University
Kyoto University is spread across three campuses in Yoshida, Uji and Katsura. It is one of Japan’s oldest universities and is consistently ranked highly in Asia.
Kyoto has about 22,000 students, 10 faculties, 19 graduate schools, 13 research institutes and 21 research and educational centres.
The university was initially made up of colleges in law, medicine, letters, and science and engineering. Within two years, the university opened a library and a hospital. Later, it established faculties in economics, agriculture and humanities and the first graduate school was launched in the mid-20th century.
The institution has produced a number of successful researchers including 10 Nobel prizewinners, two Fields medallists and one Gauss prizewinner.
The University of Tokyo became the first national university in Japan when it was established in 1877.
It provides courses across the academic spectrum and currently has 10 faculties, 15 graduate schools, 11 affiliated research institutes (including the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology), 13 university-wide centres, three libraries and two institutes for advanced study.
Students are taught at three main campuses in Hongo, Komaba and Kashiwa but there are facilities associated with the university throughout Japan. The university has a slightly unusual course structure in that students follow a liberal arts education at one campus during their first two years before transferring to another campus to study their chosen topic.
The campuses are in close proximity to many of Tokyo’s cultural attractions including Yanesen, a town of temples, and Ueno Park, with its museums and cherry blossoms. The campuses also have good transport links to the centre of the capital.
Many of Tohoku University’s facilities are built around and within the ancient war grounds of the city of Sendai.
In 1913, Tohoku University became the first university in Japan to admit female students after the appointment in 1911 of its first president, Masataro Sawayanagi, the vice minister of education. Tohoku was also the first university in Japan to admit foreign students.
In 2009, Tohoku University was one of 13 universities selected by the Japanese government to contribute to providing higher education at an international level, and the university introduced a series of degree programmes that are predominantly taught in English.
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With a history spanning more than 130 years, the Tokyo Institute of Technology is one of the country’s leading institutions for science and technology. It is the only university outside the National Seven Universities group to feature in the top five of the rankings.
Founded in 1882, the university’s main library, situated on the Ookayama campus, is the largest science and technology library in Japan.
Admission to the university is highly selective and considered to be one of the most difficult university admissions processes in Japan. Due to this, the university has a relatively small student body with under 10,000 students.
Kyushu University is a new entry in this year’s top five, moving up two places from last year’s number seven spot.
The university has international students drawn from all over the world including Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Oceania, North America and Asia. The number of international students continues to rise year-on-year.
There are 7.5 million items in the Kyushu University Museum including documents, animals, archaeological artefacts and an insect collection of more than 4 million specimens.
Student experiences of studying in Japan
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The study experience at Tohoku University
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Tokyo’s tiny medical school defied my expectations
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Studying at Hiroshima University: an international perspective