Coronavirus Tests Japanese Universities ahead of Entrance Exam Season

The Yomiuri Shimbun
NieV Co. President Taro Inaba, second from left, speaks during a Dec. 9 meeting about entrance exam administration in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo.

With the resurgence of the novel coronavirus infection, institutions of higher-education nationwide are hard-pressed to implement strong preventive measures against the contagion before the university entrance examination season gets into full swing.

Some universities, which plan to use multiple examination venues, have outsourced administration of their examinations to contractors because of an expected shortage of personnel to supervise the exams. Some regional universities will not even hold entrance examinations at Tokyo venues as part of efforts to prevent infections.

■ Outsourcing operations

“How many people are needed for 20 venues?” NieV Co. President Taro Inaba asked his staff during a Dec. 9 meeting about conducting a university entrance exam.

The Tokyo-based company is commissioned by universities to supervise examinations, and direct examinees at exam venues.

Last academic year, the company was contracted to conduct entrance examinations for two universities. This academic year, it has already received requests from seven universities.

The requests are coming from institutions that are expected to see shortages in exam proctors because of increasing the number of exam rooms at their venues to prevent infections.

Some universities also want to obtain backup personnel in case of an outbreak among faculty members, the firm said.

“We will likely receive more inquiries,” Inaba said.

Said an official at Tokyo’s Meiji University, which has decided to partially outsource the management of its entrance examinations: “Most of our classes are now held online. In a situation such as this, we can’t ask students to come to the university to work part-time for the entrance examinations.”

■ Not in Tokyo

Kagoshima University in Kagoshima has decided to cancel second-stage examinations for some of its agriculture and fisheries test takers that have been held annually in Tokyo.

About 30 students have taken the examinations in Tokyo every year, but exams will only be held at its local campus this time.

“[The decision] might add to the burden on examinees, but we cannot forecast the circumstances involving the infection in Tokyo,” a university official said.

Tokyo City University in Tokyo will set up new exam venues in Machida in Tokyo, Fujisawa in Kanagawa Prefecture and Saitama to avoid crowding at its Setagaya campus in Tokyo. The number of faculty and staffers required will surpass that of previous years by about 15, and the university expects to spend about ¥7 million more to secure venues and handle other exam-related matters.

“This measure will also shorten the distance that students have to travel to take the exam, something that will help reduce the risk of infection,” a university official said.

Tokyo’s Tsuda University, which has held entrance exams at its campus in the capital and at other venues, including Sendai, Osaka and Fukuoka, said it will not hold entrance exams at local venues mainly because of a lack of manpower.

“It was a tough decision, but we put safety first,” said a Tsuda University official.

“I’m worried about whether I will be able to take the exam at the venue as planned or whether there will be any sudden change if the infection spreads rapidly,” a 17-year-old female senior high school student said.

■ Cancelling interviews

Tokyo University of Foreign Studies has decided not to hold an English-speaking test, which was to be introduced in the second-stage of examinations for the School of Language and Culture Studies and the School of International and Area Studies.

With about 1,500 examinees gathering at a single venue, the university could not ensure their safety during the exam, in which all the test takers speak at the same time while being recorded on tablet devices.

Nagoya University’s School of Medicine in Aichi Prefecture has decided to call off interviews in the first semester to prevent droplet infections.

“The entrance examinations will become totally different ones from other years,” said Hiroshi Kobayashi, chief of Recruit Marketing Partners Co. “Depending on the situation, there might be last-minute changes on matters related to the exams, so examinees are advised to check the universities’ website or their email frequently to confirm the information.”