REPORT – Impact Assessment of COVID-19 on Graduation Plans of MEXT Scholars and Plea for Special Consideration

TOKYO – November 24 2020.

Over the period of the COVID emergency declaration and even after, many scholars have faced significant setbacks to their academic pursuits as the global epidemic has made fieldwork, laboratory use and overseas conference presentations near-impossible.

As COVID-related disruption has continued, MSA has received many requests for help from scholars who, for the foreseeable future, will not be able to graduate on time due to factors out of their control.

This also means that many scholars may be forced to continue their studies as private students and bear the costs of their tuition and living expenses as their scholarship terms expire. This also eliminates the possibility of them pursuing a scholarship extension (such as from masters to a doctorate scholarship).

MSA has therefore, over the past 2 months, launched a survey aimed at assessing the number of scholars at risk of having their scholarship expire. MEXT has also announced the availability, under certain conditions, for scholars to take a Leave of Absence. However, MSA has also received reports of universities not passing this information to scholars and we therefore wanted to investigate how widely available this information was.

We have recorded 37 cases of scholars reporting difficulties in graduating on time due to inabilities to conduct their original research plans. This is likely to be a small proportion of the actual number facing difficulties given how MSA does not have the contacts of all MEXT scholars.

In addition, we have found out that out of this number, more than half were not aware of the possibility to request a Leave of Absence – calling into question whether the current chain of communication from MEXT to the universities is functioning as intended.

We have collated this data into a report and attached a plea to MEXT to request case-by-case consideration for a scholarship extension from affected scholars and a wider request to examine the current communication chain. The report has been conveyed to MEXT as of November 24, 2020.

The reports can be viewed below.

日本語 – 新型コロナウイルス感染症COVID-19による国費外国人留学生の卒業予定に係る影響測定及び陳情書

English – Impact Assessment of COVID-19 on Graduation Plans of MEXT Scholars and Plea for Special Consideration

Credits to Ong Yuh Chian, current Masters student at Tokyo Institute of Technology, for compiling the report and to Philip Dharmawan, former MEXT scholar for the translation.

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