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Science, Technology
& Innovation

Higher Education Reform in Indonesia: Challenges and Opportunities

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Higher education is considered a long-term investment in human capital, usually involving a large budget. This often becomes a cause for concern for stakeholders, who often perceive the indicators of higher education effectiveness to be intangible and perhaps invisible, particularly in the short-term. In Indonesia, higher education investment is both private and public, with public investment coming mostly from taxes.

 

Wanting their tax money to be properly employed for the benefit of present and future generations, taxpayers demand an accountable measure of how their tax payments are being used. Taxpayers (and other stakeholders) want to know the effectiveness of the funding of higher education institutions, the correlation between funding and output, and the correlation between output and outcome. Currently, there still is no consensus regarding the understanding of university accountability in Indonesia. Public HEIs report to the Ministry of Education and Culture, while private HEIs report to their respective funding foundations.

 

The definition of “accountability” is still not agreed upon by stakeholders, including the government and immediate members of HEIs, such as faculty members and students. Currently, consensus on the definition is still lacking perhaps due to each stakeholder’s unwillingness to give up its inward looking self-interest for a more outward-looking definition that is more concerned with the public interest.

 

University autonomy and mission differentiation have been two topics for a strategic focus of higher education reform, as Indonesia’s higher education system attempts to achieve greater effectiveness. The current model, of regulation-driven HEIs could be replaced by accountability-driven HEIs, to strengthen HEI performance.

 

PROPOSED CHANGES IN ACCOUNTABILITY AND MISSION DIFFERENTIATION

To achieve greater accountability, HEIs should be provided with more autonomy, but with the support of government budgets, allocated based on such performance indicators, as the HEIs’ contributions to regional economic development, ability to supply high-quality graduates to the workforce, and improved research.

 

There has been support for the existence of boards of trustees as the main mechanism to obtain public accountability. Members of the boards should represent stakeholders and fully represent the public, rather than be dominated by members of HEIs. Currently, the latter is the case.

 

Accountability could be achieved if HEIs can operate autonomously in terms of curriculum design, finances, and recruitment of staff, and if there is a legal framework to facilitate both the consistency and the application of all regulations, units and stakeholders.

 

It is acknowledged that the processes of change cannot be the same for all institutions in the country. There has been categorisation of Indonesian universities into three tiers (fully-developed, developing and less-developed), and each layer is expected to have its own target of achievement, as a result of the understanding that governments should not request change of HEIs beyond their individual capacities.

 

There are four areas of focus that HEIs should consider, and no HEI is expected to address all
four, due to limited infrastructure, budget and time. The four areas of focus are: world-class research, national policy, creation of competitive human resources, and generation of highly educated people. HEIs should review their strengths and readiness before deciding on their focus. Fully developed HEIs can focus on any of the four areas, but developing HEIs should focus on either the generation of highly educated people or on national policy, working individually or collaboratively with fully developed HEIs. Focusing on these areas, Indonesian HEIs would be solving serious global issues, such as global warming and the global food crisis, as well as addressing national issues. Through these four focus areas, Indonesian HEIs would be financed by both international schemes and by national schemes, involving the government and different industries.

 

The expected results from these four focus areas has to be viewed both in the short-term, up to the year 2019, and in the longer term, from the year 2019 to 2024. In the short term, Indonesian HEIs should produce high-quality PhDs, with high-quality scientific publications, participate in international research collaborations, with cross-sectoral collaboration and networking, and mobilise qualified graduates to minimise disparities among districts. In the longer term, Indonesia should produce world-class researchers, including award-winning scientists, and it should be viewed as a resource for world-class experiments and knowledge generation. By 2024, the nation should also have qualified researchers to implement Indonesia’s national research policy.

 

CONCLUSION

Changes in accountability and mission differentiation need to take place for Indonesian HEIs to reach their full potential. Mission differentiation is suitable where high variations of institutions are not a problem, but an opportunity to be seized, so that each institution can maximise its focus and capacity. Indonesia is a country with great diversity, and that diversity should become an opportunity for greater effectiveness in Indonesia’s higher education system.

SATRYO SOEMANTRI BRODJONEGORO

Satryo Soemantri Brodjonegoro is Vice-President of the Indonesian Academy of Sciences. He was the Director-General for higher education at Indonesia’s Ministry of National Education (1999 to 2007).

JULY 2016 | ISSUE 1

What’s New in Higher Education? Southeast Asia and Beyond

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Leaders and changemakers of today face unique and complex challenges. The HEAD Foundation Digest features insights and opinions from those in the know addressing a wide range of pertinent issues that factor in a society’s development. 

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About

Leaders and changemakers of today face unique and complex challenges. The HEAD Foundation Digest features insights and opinions from those in the know addressing a wide range of pertinent issues that factor in a society’s development. 

Informed opinions can inspire healthy discussions and open up our imagination to new possibilities. Interested in contributing? Write to us at info@headfoundation

Stay updated on our latest announcements on events and publications

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