2020.6.25 : Request for equal treatment of local and international students when providing future financial support for students affected by COVID-19

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Request for equal treatment of local and international students when providing future financial support for students affected by COVID-19

Dear Professor Yamagiwa, President of Kyoto University

Dear Professor Kawazoe, Vice-President for Student Affairs and Library Services

On May 19, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) announced a plan that the ministry offers a financial support for the university students who suffered economically due to COVID-19. The plan got criticized soon after the announcement for treating Japanese and international students differently. Japanese students are required to submit only financial papers, whilst international student must also meet strict academic requirements to apply for the support. Facing the criticism, MEXT left the matter up to universities to decide whether they would enforce the additional requirements on international students or not.

On June 2, Kyoto University announced that they would not impose the academic requirements on international students. According to the Asahi Shinbun, President Yamagiwa explained the decision saying that the COVID-19 financial support is different from scholarships for academic achievement as it is for all students facing financial problems. We agree with Kyoto University President Yamagiwa’s view that students should not be discriminated against based on their nationality or academic achievements. However, there are still other hurdles for international students in the application process that Kyoto University has not removed.

  1. Despite Kyoto University waiving the requirement, international students were still urged in the application form to give information as to whether they met the academic requirements set by the MEXT. Furthermore, a technical glitch prevented the application form from being downloaded in English and there was no English-speaking officer at the scholarship bureau to assist. As the application period was only one week, students withoutJapanese proficiency were effectively excluded from the application process.
  2. Students who do not belong to regular programs such as research students or guest students, known by the university as“unofficial students”, were excluded from the scheme. All students are at risk of financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, so it is not justifiable to treat students differently based on their official/unofficial status. Considering the fact that the majority of “unofficial students” at Kyoto University are international students, the exclusion represents discrimination against international students.

Kyoto University has announced that it will also use its own budget to offer more financial supports for students in addition to the financial support from MEXT. In order to prevent discriminatory treatment against international students, Yoshida Ryo Residents Committee, as a student group at Kyoto University, requests our university to fulfill the four points below.

We ask that when providing future financial support Kyoto University:

  • not exclude “unofficial” students from the application process.
  • not discriminate against students based on their nationality or academic achievements.
  • improve multilingual services so that students who do not speak Japanese can also apply.
  • extend the application period long enough so that international students have a chance to become aware of the scheme and apply.

June 27, 2020

Yoshida Ryo Residents Committee