University rankings too sweet

The March 14 front-page article “Universities to boost classes in English” states: “According to Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings, only two Japanese colleges make the top 100 — the University of Tokyo (No. 27) and Kyoto University (No. 54).”

It appears that Anglo-Saxon countries, especially the United States, take the lion’s share of higher rankings. It might be natural for the world’s best brains to be drawn to the U.S., the wealthiest country, the way that ants are attracted to sweets. Yet, I cannot help thinking that the selection is preposterously biased in favor of schools in English-speaking countries.

How many universities represent Germany in the list — the great country that produced Beethoven, Goethe, Kant and Marx?

How many colleges stand for Russia, which produced Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky and the scientists who were the first in the world to launch a man-made satellite.

Perhaps conspicuously missing from the top 30, or even the top 50, are colleges of China, a proud country of 1.3 billion people whose ancestors invented paper, gunpowder, the marine compass and printing besides constructing the Great Wall.

After a humiliating period of nearly two centuries, the Chinese began to recover their former potential under Deng Xiaoping in 1978. Now they won’t be satisfied with anything less than being tops in everything. They are now producing five times as much steel as the U.S. Meanwhile, construction of the world’s tallest building is nearing completion in Changsha.

By the time my 2-year-old granddaughter reaches my current age (82), Harvard, Yale and MIT may have been eclipsed by China’s Tsinghua, Peking and Fudan (Shanghai) universities in world rankings such as these.

mitsugi yanagita

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.