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Will Indonesia become a major student market?

Indonesia is best known as an exporter of coffee, palm oil and rubber, but with rapid economic growth is looking towards a more diverse economic future. With GDP climbing by 6% annually, this nation of 240 million, the fourth most populated on the planet, wants to build capacity and up-skill. Naturally its demand for good education, gained at home or abroad, is growing fast.

The University of Western Australia could be one of many campuses to see growing Indonesian numbers, according to Austrade

Only 36,000 Indonesians study abroad, but the British Council predicts growth of 20% annually

The British Council estimates that some 2.6 million Indonesians will enter higher education in the next decade, buoyed by the country’s economic growth, political stability, demographic changes and rising education levels.

But despite the emerging prosperity, the HE sector is not going to be able to cater for all of Indonesia’s aspiring population and the number of students studying overseas is likely to grow. It’s true this is starting from a low base: it has been reported that just 36,000 students – 1% of Indonesia’s student population – currently study abroad.

“The Indonesian government’s growing emphasis on building human capacity will drive student mobility”

However, the British council last year estimated annual growth of 20% lay ahead. Steve Buckle, head of the British Council in Indonesia, has gone as far as saying the country will be one of the world’s “major international education markets in the next few years.”

So which countries will benefit from the rise? For now Australia is out in front, being the most popular study destination for Indonesians and the one of the nearest geographically. Despite Australia’s ongoing overseas enrolment downturn, government trade arm Austrade reports that in 2012, 17,000 Indonesians enrolled at Australian institutions. This constitutes about 3% of all foreign enrolments, but still makes Indonesia one of Australia’s top 10 source markets.

IMG_4667-hi-resActive through exhibitions such as the Science for Our Future Festival of last year and various outreach initiatives in the vocational educational and training (VET) sector, Austrade is confident that numbers will grow. More amenable student visa rules are likely to help, with students now able to seek work for longer after graduation – key to attaining the right skills.

“The Indonesian government’s growing emphasis on building human capacity will drive student mobility,” says Quentin Stevenson-Perks, group manager for education at Austrade. “In addition, an increasing number of Indonesian government scholarships will provide greater opportunity for Indonesians to study overseas.”

The fall in US appeal has been linked to Indonesia’s neighbours stepping up their overtures

The next biggest destination, the USA, has actually seen a marked decline in Indonesian enrolments, which are down from 13,280 in 1997/98 to 7,130 in 2011/12, but slowly climbing again. It has since opened a cultural centre in Jakarta that promises Indonesians a 95 per cent student acceptance rate.

The fall in US appeal has been linked to Indonesia’s neighbours stepping up their overtures. China, Malaysia and Singapore have latterly been joined by New Zealand in announcing their intention to attract more Indonesian students. China, in particular, increased scholarships in the country after witnessing a 42% enrolment surge at its universities in 2007-2009.

All the countries above offer research opportunities that might be of interest to Indonesians. They also offer plentiful courses in business, IT, hospitality and tourism – the subjects Indonesians most want to study. [More>>]

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