The University of Tokyo is often referred to as the ‘Harvard of the East’, and is the highest-ranking university in all of Japan.

As Japan’s oldest university, The University of Tokyo is an institution that has a rich history, intertwined deep into modern Japanese Society. Established in 1877 by the Meiji Government, the University of Tokyo became the forerunner in tertiary education in Japan and is often the highest-ranking Asian university alongside the National University of Singapore and The University of Hong Kong.

As its name suggests, the University of Tokyo is located in Tokyo, Japan. Tokyo rivals London, Paris, and New York when it comes to its rankings in economic and political influence. As the largest metropolitan city in the world, Tokyo is home to over 76% of foreign companies based in Japan. The University of Tokyo has five campuses: Hongo, Komaba, Kashiwa, Shirokane, and Nakano. The main campuses – Hongo, Komaba, and Kashiwa – are where most of the students participate in classes and research.

University of Tokyo Rankings

The University of Tokyo is consistently ranked as the best university in Japan. According to Toyo Keizai’s “Truly Strong Universities” ranking, University of Tokyo has been at the top of the list for the since 2008. Globally, Times Higher Education ranks University of Tokyo in the top 50 consistently, coming in at 36th for 2021. The Center for World University Rankings ranked University of Tokyo as 12th globally. University of Tokyo has a long list of accomplished alumni, including 15 former prime ministers of Japan and 10 Nobel Laureates.

The University of Tokyo offers two programs targeted towards foreign students, one under the Programs in English at Komaba (PEAK program) banner, and another called the Global Science Course, which is an undergraduate transfer program. PEAK courses are four years long and are held entirely in English, with compulsory Japanese language classes. The University of Tokyo accepted 61 students out of 322 applicants in 2017. Out of the 61 students, 12 students were Japanese, and the rest were from various countries around the world, including New Zealand, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Switzerland.

5 things the University of Tokyo Ranks FIRST!

So what makes the University of Tokyo the best university in all of Japan?

Here at Schoolynk, we have chosen five of the many attributes that The University of Tokyo ranks high: internationalization, employability, research, famous alumni, and the field of public policy. Read on to see how the university shines in both a national and an international context!

1. Internationalization

Person Holding World Globe Facing Mountain

As one of the 13 universities chosen by the Japanese government to take part in the G-30 Project towards internationalization, The University of Tokyo has recently surprised the world with its level of global integration, reflected in its exchange programs, English-based courses, and increasingly diverse student body.

On an institutional level, The University of Tokyo has 30 overseas offices and facilities, as well as 519 international exchange agreements with selected universities all over the world. Through its partnerships with prestigious universities, the university provides a wide global network for students, researchers, and faculty members to efficiently obtain their desirable education environment.

From a student’s perspective, global connectivity becomes a key component of their university life, especially when over 4,000 international students are roaming around the campus. Additionally, students are offered various study abroad opportunities with the world’s top ranking universities, including UC Davis, UC Berkeley, Columbia University, and Peking University.

Schoolynk Hint! For more information about being an international student at the University of Tokyo, refer to the international handout here!

2. Employability

Close-up of Human Hand

Taking a diploma from The University of Tokyo into a job interview is like cruising in on a Ferrari into a party — you’re bound to get attention.

In the 2020 QS World University Rankings, The University of Tokyo ranked 23rd in the world for employability. The overall score for Employer Reputation was 99.1 out of 100 possible points! This scale analyzes the extent to which a university prepares its graduates for future careers. Such measures include connecting students with global employers and ensuring they develop the necessary skills and knowledge needed for job hunting.

3. Research

Pile of Covered Books

One of the most, if not the most, reputable qualities of The University of Tokyo is its academic research. In various fields, the faculty and students contribute numerous academic works that impact society on a global scale. To measure its achievements, the university uses three different indicators: the exchange rate of researchers, the number of cited papers, and the number of Nobel Prize recipients.

The University of Tokyo actively engages in researcher exchange initiatives with various prominent overseas institutions, especially with those in the US, China, and parts of Europe. As of 2020, the university has announced 16,339 cases of researcher exchange initiatives with international institutions.

Another indicator of a researcher’s achievements is how frequently his or her academic papers are being cited by others. The number of citations represents the level of impact that certain work has left on the academic world. As of 2020, The University of Tokyo has announced 388,713 citations used internationally, which is remarkably high for being a non-English institute and its ranking is one of the top in Asia.

Finally, what better indicator of research competence is there than the number of academic works recognized by the Nobel Prize. As of 2020, there have been 16 affiliates of The University of Tokyo who have been named Nobel laureates, from which 10 are considered “Tokyo’s Nobel Laureates” by the university. The most recent recipient was Assistant Professor Tasuku Honjo who became a 2018 Nobel Laureate for discovering cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulations.

4. Famous Alumni

Ace of Spade Playing Card on Grey Surface

The University of Tokyo has an impressive list of famous alumni who have succeeded both on the national and the international stage. This list includes 15 of Japan’s 62 prime ministers, 5 astronauts, and hundreds of company CEOs. Here are some of our top picks:

  • Masako Owada: Empress of Japan since 2019 inauguration
  • Soichi Noguchi: aeronautical engineer and JAXA astronaut
  • Hara Takashi: Japanese politician who was nicknamed the “commoner prime minister” for being the first commoner to ever be appointed as the prime minister of Japan.
  • Ryūnosuke Akutagawa: Japanese writer of the Taishō period, regarded as the “Father of the Japanese short story” and inspired Japan’s premier literary award, the Akutagawa Prize.
  • Sōen Nakagawa: Taiwanese-born Japanese Zen Buddhist master in the Rinzai tradition who left major impacts on Zen in the 20th century, both in Japan and abroad.
  • Kanō Jigorō: founder of Judo, the first Japanese martial art to gain international recognition and to become an official Olympic sport.

For more information about famous alumni of the University of Tokyo, check out our article below!
University of Tokyo, Notable Alumni

5. Field of Public Policy

Person Holding Silver Pen Signing Photographers Signature

In the 2020 QS World University Rankings, The University of Tokyo ranked highest in its Social Policy and Administration category, placing 7th in the world!

The Graduate School of Public Policy, known as GraSPP, was established in 2004 for students pursuing professional and doctoral degrees. It aims to develop experts ready to serve as public officials who are capable of communicating on an international stage. Its interdisciplinary approach that encompasses the topics of law, politics, economics, and international relations is highly regarded in the field.

One of the best aspects of The University of Tokyo’s public policy programs is the global connectivity that they have to offer. Here is an impressive list of world renowned, high-ranking universities that The University of Tokyo maintains close partnerships with:

  • School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University
  • London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Sciences Po Paris
  • Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore
  • Hertie School
  • Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) – EAESP
  • Graduate School of International Studies at Seoul National University
  • The School of International Studies at Peking University
  • Heidelberg University
  • The School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego
  • HEC Paris
  • Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University
  • The United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability
  • Luskin School of Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • Department of War Studies at King’s College London
  • Department of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen

Schoolynk Tip! Here is the Global University of Toyko Page for USTEP: The University-Wide Exchange Program
University-wide Student Exchange Program (USTEP)

With such powerful connections, it’s no wonder that The University of Tokyo ranks so high in the public policy field!

Anything Else?

Of course, the list of qualifications continues, but the above-mentioned are five of The University of Tokyo’s most reputable attributes. It also explains why the University does so well in International Rankings such as the Times Higher Education University Rankings and QS World University Rankings. For more information on the English-based degree programs offered by this impressive university, you can visit some of the other articles about its English programs on the School Media website! Happy readings!


“List of Nobel Laureates Affiliated with the University of Tokyo.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Mar. 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Nobel_laureates_affiliated_with_the_University_of_Tokyo

Reference. “Famous University Of Tokyo Alumni.” Ranker, www.ranker.com/list/famous-university-of-tokyo-alumni-and-students/reference.

“The University of Tokyo.” Top Universities, 30 Mar. 2020, www.topuniversities.com/universities/university-tokyo#918769.

“The University of Tokyo.” Top Universities, 30 Mar. 2020, www.topuniversities.com/universities/university-tokyo#918769.