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Australia targets “sleeping giant” Indonesia

Australia has joined a growing list of countries looking to tap the Indonesian student market – widely considered a sleeping giant in recruitment terms – by holding a major exhibition to promote its science education.

Professor Kadambot Siddique discusses the conflicts between energy and food supply at the Science For Our Future Festival, Indonesia.

2.6 million Indonesian students will enter higher education over the next decade

Co-run by various universities and government departments, the Science For Our Future Festival involved outreach activities and events in the cities of Jakarta, Surabaya and Pontianak throughout October. While the exhibition was themed around global development, there was clear subtext to boost enrolments in the natural sciences at Australian universities.

“Under the SFOFF banner, a range of campaigns promoted the importance of science for addressing major challenges faced by modern society,” Austrade, who helped organise the fair, said in a statement. “Various science education activities targeted Indonesian students, researchers and the general public, with 2,200 Indonesians taking part in one of more of the events.”

According to the British council, 2.6 million Indonesian students will enter higher education over the next decade, however only around 50,000 currently study abroad according to a 2010 survey. Australia is top choice (with 17,896 enrolments in 2011), followed by the US, UK and Singapore.

With the number studying overseas growing at 20% annually , Australia could benefit greatly, but it must manage the challenges of a high dollar and rising competition abroad.

Australia faces stiff competition in Indonesia from the UK, New Zealand, China and the USA

This month the UK furthered its ties with Indonesia with a series of new university partnerships, while the US – hoping to stem a decline in Indonesian interest (enrolments fell from 13,280 in 1997-98 to 6,940 in 2009-10) – opened a cultural centre in Jakarta in 2011, promising Indonesians a 95% student visa acceptance rate.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand also visited Indonesia in May, while China, not yet a top destination, has increased its scholarships following a 42% surge in Indonesian enrolments at its universities in 2007-2009.

Austrade was unable to comment on Australia’s relative chances at the time of publishing. However it said the fair, which has been run in Singapore and Malaysia previously, was a success, achieving “media coverage through more than 30 articles, including many in the most influential and popular media outlets in Indonesia, including Kompas, Metro TV, Jakarta Globe and Jawa Pos.”

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