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Japan's public universities split over coronavirus response ahead of entrance exams

A group of exam takers are seen waiting for the last National Center Test for University Admissions to begin at the University of Tokyo in the capital's Bunkyo Ward on Jan. 18, 2020. (Mainichi/Kaho Kitayama)

TOKYO -- Public universities in Japan are divided in their response to the spread of the new coronavirus ahead of the first round of their entrance examinations scheduled for Feb. 25.

The University of Tokyo announced via its official website on Feb. 13 that it "will not allow" examinees infected with the new virus to take the tests. It also said the university does not plan to give special treatment to those patients, such as offering makeup exams. Osaka University, Nagoya University and Kyushu University have also expressed that they will take similar responses.

Meanwhile, schools including Hokkaido University, the Nagoya Institute of Technology, Osaka Prefecture University and some faculties of Saga University have decided to base their entrance decision on the results of the standardized National Center Test for University Admissions held in January or to give points for survey forms submitted by examinees in addition to the center test results, among other special treatment.

Kyoto University and Tohoku University are reportedly still considering their responses.

A representative of Osaka University explained, "Currently, infections have not yet spread to many exam takers. We also got feedback from the faculty of medicine and made a comprehensive judgment." A Nagoya University official said its response may change "depending on the situation in the future."

A Kyushu University representative told the Mainichi Shimbun, "Because we allocate higher marks for our original exams, it's difficult to base our decision just on the results of other tests like the standardized center test, given factors such as ensuring fairness to other examinees."

As the peak for university entrance exams and the spreading of the virus overlapped, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology advised universities across Japan on Jan. 30 to "consider responding flexibly depending on the situation at each university, with the objective of securing prospective students' chances for admission."

Though the ministry mentioned makeup tests and using the results of the National Center Test for University Admissions as an example of considerable treatment, each university is entrusted to decide on their own response.

(Japanese original by Tomotatsu Yamaguchi and Takuya Yoshida, Integrated Digital News Center, and Kenichi Mito, City News Department)

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