Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has set an ambitious target of Japan getting at least 10 universities in the world's top 100 within 10 years. The government promised millions of dollars for selected institutions, to create not just international universities, but "Super Global Universities." One president of a major university declared that he wanted to see his university in the top 10 by 2020.

Sadly, Japan's universities are failing their international exams, falling precipitously in the global league standings, lagging behind China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore. A new approach and radical reforms are necessary if the government is not to waste taxpayers' money and Japan to fail its people. Is anyone in the university classroom paying attention?

New world university rankings from The Times High Education, suitably THE, make for depressing reading for anyone who cares about Japan. Only two Japanese universities are in the top 100, the University of Tokyo, which languishes in 39th place, and Kyoto University in 91st. The next Japanese university is Tohoku, ranked in the 201-250 segment, followed by Osaka University and the Tokyo Institute of Technology, both in the 251-300 ranking. After 200th place, universities are listed in batches of 50 until 400, when they come in groups of 100, until 600, when 200 are lumped together.