The UK-based Times Higher Education (THE) has released the World University Rankings 2024. 23 Japanese universities (compared to 22 last year) were ranked in the top 1,000. Overall, the rankings of Japanese universities have improved. The University of Tokyo rose from the 39th spot to 29th, Kyoto University from the 68th spot to 55th, Tohoku University from being ranked between 201−250th to the 130th spot, and Osaka University from being ranked between 251−300th to the 175th spot.
However, this improvement is not due to an increase in the research capabilities of Japanese universities, but because of the revision in some of the indicators used. In THE's university rankings, the citation impact indicator accounts for 30% of the total score; however, the way the indicators are calculated has changed this year. Field-weighted citation impact (FWCI) is the number of citations of a paper divided by the world average number of citations of papers in the same research field, publication year, and literature type, where 1 is the world average. Previously, only FWCI was used as the citation impact indicator. Henceforth, half of the citation impact indicator will be calculated using the conventional FWCI, and the remainder will comprise three factors: 75% FWCI, top 10% paper rate, and network score. In particular, the 75% FWCI (which indicates the citation performance of papers) and the network score (which is weighted to favor papers cited by other influential papers) were considered to have worked to the advantage of Japanese universities.
University rankings are one of the indicators for evaluating the competitiveness of universities; however, university rankings can rise and fall merely due to the way rankings are calculated. Although these rankings tend to attract a lot of attention in Japan, those involved need to have awareness and understand what the rankings indicate and use them accordingly.
This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd. (https://sci-news.co.jp/). Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.