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Japanese universities

to resume face-to-face classes

Many universities in Japan are set to partially resume in-person classes in the second half of the current academic year, which starts in autumn, while taking measures against the spread of the coronavirus.

Most schools are expected to adopt a hybrid system in which both online and face-to-face systems are used to reduce infection risks.

With the coronavirus crisis persisting in the country, universities are concerned about clusters of infections, but students are eagerly awaiting the full restart of in-person classes.

The University of Tokyo will reduce the number of students at its Komaba campus in Meguro Ward, where first- and second-year students take classes, to one-third of the usual level.

The university will conduct compulsory courses, such as language classes, in person on even numbered weeks and online on odd numbered weeks. Face-to-face classes are expected to account for 20 to 30 percent of all classes for first-year students and 10 to 20 percent for students in their second years, according to the university.

The university will also make Wi-Fi and power outlets available at the campus so that students can take online classes there before and after attending in-person classes.

“We aim to fulfill our function as a university while preventing infection” among students and staff workers, a public relations official at the national university said. The school also plans to make polymerase chain reaction and antigen tests available for staff members and students.

At Kansai University in Osaka Prefecture, in-person classes are expected to make up 80 percent of all classes, with only lectures attended by 250 or more students to be offered online.

The private university is calling on students to refrain from activities that put them at a high risk of infection.

Kansai University and Doshisha University — a private institution in neighboring Kyoto Prefecture that plans to offer 70 percent of its classes in-person — and others have issued a joint statement urging their students not to hold drinking and dining parties for the time being.

According to the education ministry, 824 of 1,003 public and private universities and junior colleges in the country plan to hold both face-to-face and online classes in the second half of the current academic year, with 44 percent of them expecting their in-person classes to account for 30 percent or less of total classes.

A 19-year-old first-year student at a private university in Tokyo said that the humanities faculty to which she belongs will continue to conduct all classes online in the second half, while face-to-face classes are set to restart at science faculties.

“We’ve received no explanation at all from the university,” she said, adding that “I’m worried that I’ll have to continue taking only online classes” in the next academic year from spring 2021.

A 20-year-old student who transferred to a private university in Osaka in April expects to have no in-person classes in the second half.

“The university says it will partially resume face-to-face classes, but 99 percent of my classes remain online,” she said. “I want the school to allow me to have face-to-face classes before my graduation.”