COVID-19 Operating Status Updates

The JDP and the COVID-19 pandemic –Spring 2022 update

May 10, 2022

Any updates regarding JDP operating status in the light of the pandemic will be announced on this page, in the meantime please refer to the list of recent JDP news and events on our main page.

This spring semester JDP students from AU who had been taken RU classes online during the fall 2021 semester were finally able to join the JDP community on campus at RU. Welcoming these students on campus was possible following the easing of entry restrictions for foreign students in Japan starting from March 1, 2022. This change in policy allowed many foreign that were previously subject to entry restrictions, introduced in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, to finally enter the country.

In the light of evolving policy context, RU and AU staff cooperated to provide regular, up-to-date information to the students whom such developments concerned by conducting one-on-one meetings as well as group guidance sessions to address any questions and/or concerns, and to assist the students in the process of obtaining their visas and entering Japan in the light of the updated rules and procedures. These JDP students were able to join classes on campus from the beginning of the spring semester  and RU staff and faculty have provided further guidance to ensure their smooth transition into student life in RU.

Now that the remaining batch of students has arrived to RU, all AU-Home students and RU-Home students are finally able to continue their studies either on RU or AU campus .

Given that pandemic is not over, the JDP staff team in RU continues to carefully monitor the situation and remains committed to draw on the experiences learned so far in operating the JDP under evolving circumstances.

The JDP and the COVID-19 pandemic –Fall 2021 update (2)

December 1, 2021

After 1.5 years of irregularities triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, JDP student flow between RU and AU could partially resume starting from fall 2021 semester.

According to the original JDP study schedule, students who commence their studies in RU (RU-home students) would normally spend their 3 first semesters at RU, then spend 4 semesters at AU and return to RU for their final semester. Meanwhile, JDP students who enter the programme through AU (i.e. RU-Home students), would normally spend their first 2 semesters at AU, then spend 4 semesters in RU and return to AU for the remaining 2 semesters. However, as already detailed in earlier news entries, given the halt on most international travels during the pandemic, many JDP students had to face the difficult choice – either continue studying online from their countries of origin, or resequencing their study schedule.

In August 2021, the RU-home JDP students from 3rd and 2nd cohorts travelled to the US and started their studies at AU. At the same time, RU welcomed on its campus some of the AU-home students that have been waiting to study at RU. Most of these students have changed the sequence of their studies during the pandemic, and will be thus working towards completing their remaining degree requirements here at RU.

Meanwhile, on November 8, the Japanese Government announced measures to resume the entry of international students who could not enter Japan in the light of previous entry ban restrictions. According to this announcement, the number of entering students was about to be strictly regulated with permission to enter Japan being granted based on how long ago a students’ Certificate of Eligibility (COE) was issued. Moreover, the process to enter the country included new procedural requirements which both the students and university administration had to meet. However, in the light of emergence of new omicron variant of COVID-19, the entry ban was reintroduced for all foreign visitors again from November 30, 2021.

This means that, at present it remains uncertain when the remaining JDP students waiting to enter Japan could do so.

The JDP staff team in RU continues to monitor the situation and liaise with relevant authorities and remains committed to doing everything within its reach to ensure that the remaining JDP students who wish to enter Japan could do so as soon as possible.

The JDP and the COVID-19 pandemic –Fall 2021 update

July 15, 2021

Following extensive consultations between RU and AU academic advising and administrative members, and close follow-up with JDP students throughout spring 2021 semester, university management in both AU and RU decided to re-open JDP for student travel from fall 2021 semester. While most international exchange programs remain closed, after careful considerations of the virus situation and health and safety measures in respective universities, both universities made an exception for the JDP, considering the special character of the program.

The JDP staff teams in both universities held several guidance sessions for both AU and RU students in different cohorts, explaining the operational plans for both universities and the options that students could pursue and detailing advantages and disadvantages and any pending uncertainties pertaining to each option.

In the light of the widespread availability of vaccines, the high vaccination rates, and the declining number of reported COVID-19 infection rates in the US and Washington D.C., AU decided to return to full operations from August 2021. To be able to do this, AU will require all students, faculty, staff, and contractors with a presence on campus or on university-sanctioned study abroad activities off premises to be vaccinated. Likewise, AU will require regular COVID-19 testing (PCR) for all those with a campus presence who are exempt from the vaccine requirements (eg. for medical reasons), as well as periodic testing for all those who have been fully vaccinated. This means that all AU JDP courses will return to in-person instruction from fall 2021, without offering online options.

After being duly informed of this AU plan, RU JDP students were given time to decide whether they would proceed with planning their departure to US and studies in AU from fall 2021, or whether they would opt to take a leave of absence, or resequence their study schedule. Consequently, most RU students decided to pursue the option to travel to the US and are now in the process of attending various guidance sessions in preparation for commencing their studies at AU.
It should be noted that the situation significantly differs in Japan. The country has been lagging behind in terms of ensuring effective infection containment measures, enhancing its testing capacity and rolling out vaccinations. As of July 15, the Japanese government continues to deny new entries of foreign nationals, and we are currently hoping that the situation will improve soon.  While AU JDP students who were in Japan prior to the pandemic could re-enter Japan, the other AU students cannot travel to the country. Those students could pursue RU classes online, take a leave of absence and/or resequence their study schedules. These AU students are still to make their decisions.

In the light of the above, RU JDP team continues to prepare with various scenarios in mind. Vaccinations for RU faculty, staff and students, who wish to be vaccinated, started on July 5, 2021. At present, although final management decision is pending, RU also intends to return to in-person instructions from fall 2021. It is preparing to accept AU students on campus, while maintaining online classes for those who may not be able to enter Japan in the light of continuing government restrictions.

Considering the evolving situation, JDP teams in both universities will continue their collective efforts to maintain close dialogue with students, so as to enable them to pursue the option that suits their situation the most in the light of the existing conditions and circumstances.

The JDP and the COVID-19 pandemic – Spring 2021 update

February 16, 2021

RU and AU academic advisors have conducted several consultations with all RU JDP students that have been continuing AU classes remotely from their respective countries of residence during the fall 2020 semester. The fact many online lectures have been conducted as live sessions has been a big challenge for students based in completely different time zones. They all had to juggle time in trying to follow the classes, completing assignments, and balancing all that with their daily lives. We are appreciative of the patience and flexibility all the students have shown and admire the hard work they have achieved in adapting to this ever-challenging condition.

In the light of the still serious pandemic situation, AU has decided to continue most of its classes online in spring 2021 semester, while expanding in-person classes in select areas (such as sciences and performing arts). As it became clear that for JDP students most classes will continue online, and acknowledging the challenges of attending classes from different time zones, AU also included RU JDP students into a limited number of those who could apply for on-campus accommodation in AU for spring 2021 semester.

In discussing the prospects for spring semesters, academic advisors and administrative staff from both universities talked once again and discussed different possibilities with RU students, weighing advantages and disadvantages of the respective options. Having also consulted with their families, all JDP students from RU finally decided to continue with online classes during the spring 2021 semester as well.
The staff from both universities understands that these were no easy decisions to make. Looking ahead to the fall 2021 and beyond, we are continuing our joint efforts to look for optimal solutions that prioritise respective students’ academic progress while also taking full account of the restrictions and concerns that the on-going pandemic situation presents.

The JDP and the COVID-19 pandemic

October 15, 2020

From its very start, Ritsumeikan University’s and American University’s Joint Degree Program (JDP) aimed to cultivate globally minded leaders. The corner stone of the programme is the opportunity it provides for students to spend an equal amount of time in the US and Japan during their undergraduate degree, thus enabling them to gain a deeper understanding of both countries and cultures. For this purpose, much time invested by the academic and administrative staff involved in managing the JDP focuses on coordinating student affairs to ensure that each student can seamlessly transition between American University (AU) and Ritsumeikan University (RU), while working towards obtaining a degree that is jointly awarded by two universities.

The COVID-19 pandemic with consequential lockdowns and travel restrictions has had a tremendous impact on JDP, just as it did on so many other aspects of higher education across the world. Since February 2020, both AU and RU staff spent many hours discussing potential options for and with the students to minimize the impact on their studies. Without an end in sight, and given the constantly evolving situations in both Japan and the US, this has proven to be challenging but also revealed the unique strength of the JDP, underpinned by its ability to devise flexible solutions supported by both institutions.

While the decision to shift to web-based classes during the spring 2020 semester was taken relatively quickly by both universities, uncertainty about what the following semesters would look like remained. Relevant staff from both universities continued to plan for several scenarios and consider possible options with and for the students, while analysing implications that each of these could pose for students’ academic progress. In doing so, the RU student advising team organised several meetings with its JDP students, who were supposed to continue their studies in the US. While most students wanted to continue their studies at AU as usual, whether on-campus classes could be a possibility when the semester resumed remained a big question. That is why, all efforts were made to keep the possibility for physical travel for those who wished, and to explore other options at the same time. These included taking AU courses online, exceptionally changing the sequences of semesters that students take at AU and RU (for the normal sequence of semesters see here), or taking a leave of absence while ensuring that students face no disadvantages when they resume their studies.

When the AU made the decision to cancel all of its study abroad programs and offer all fall semester courses online with no on-campus experience, it became clear that unfortunately RU’s JDP students could not travel to US, and AU’s JDP students could not come to Japan. Consequently, the RU students opted for taking AU classes online, while AU students decided to change their semester sequences or to take a leave of absence.

Regardless which path students opted for, these were tough decisions to make. In responding to this challenging situation, the advisor teams from both universities continued to work tirelessly to assist students and their guardians to make informed decision and to help keep students on track academically, despite prevailing uncertainty on many fronts.

In the light of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, co-existing with this virus requires all of us to take difficult steps to navigate the uncertain times ahead. Meanwhile, staff from RU and AU is aware that many lessons have to be continuously learned from the responses so far and remains committed to analysing what worked well and what needs improvement as we move forward.

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