Rankings help give people, perspective students, parents, tax payers, and investors an opportunity to compare institutions, but I wonder if they also may not lead to complacency, as politicians and administrators can point to movement in their charts as evidence for superior management or conversely, evidence of the need for more investment.
Japan universities seem to be improving, I mean if you ask the people at The Times Higher Education. This evaluation seems to be heavily weighted in favor of publications, and my guess is that it strongly favors research done in English. It includes scores based on peer review, employer review, staff/student, citiations, international staff, and international students.
"These countries have invested heavily in higher education in recent years, and this is reflected in the improved quality in their top institutions." Wonder where this heavy investment might be seen? I also wonder where this investment might be coming from, industry, government?
"They have also attempted to internationalise their universities by hiring more faculty from overseas ... this helps to improve their visibility globally." Is this where the investment is going, to hire faculty from overseas? It begs the question, why are researchers having to be imported? What systemic problems exist that make it necessary to import scholars, and are these barriers to domestic growth evaluated by The Times?
"These universities have also stressed the importance of their professors publishing in international journals, which has no doubt increased the visibility of their research." Publishing has always been one of those things academics do, but how does it help students? I've heard the arguments, and it may work in some cases, but it fails utterly in others.
At best these rankings can be used by people faced with short-term decisions about how to invest their money or which schools to apply for this Fall, but in the long run, they do not address long term solutions about how university education can be improved.