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Indonesia eyes foreign HEIs partnerships

The Indonesian government will allow foreign universities to operate on its shores almost a decade after passing a law to do so, according to an announcement made by research, technology and higher education minister Muhammad Nasir.

Indonesia plans to allow foreign universities to operate in partnership with local private universities. Photo: Bagus GhufronIndonesia plans to allow foreign universities to operate in partnership with local private universities. Photo: Bagus Ghufron

The response has been mixed, with some commentators and politicians raising concerns that internationalisation could negatively impact national identity

“We give the chance for foreign higher learning institutions, especially world-class universities, to operate in Indonesia,” Nasir said in a press conference.

The decision, which will allow foreign universities to operate in partnership with local private universities, sees the government moving on a 2012 law which sought to modernise Indonesia’s education system.

“Do not consider this as a new colonialism… the point is about collaboration”

While it will open up this possibility for foreign universities, Nasir added that there would be a limit to the number of partnerships allowed and that courses could only focus on science, technology, engineering, mathematics, business, technology, or management.

The response has been mixed, with some commentators and politicians raising concerns that internationalisation could negatively impact national identity, a point Nasir attempted to thwart during his press conference.

“Do not consider this as a new colonialism, it is not like that because the point is about collaboration,” he said.

According to Kevin Evans, Indonesia director of the Australia-Indonesia Centre, the decision sees the government attempting to address several overlapping points within the country’s education system.

“A fundamental philosophy of education here has also been about quantity; it’s always been about bringing more and more kids into the system,” he said.

“The downside… has been that the focus on quantity has tended to mean there’s less focus on quality. There are even elements of concern about elitism when you try to infuse or accelerate focuses on quality and education.”

Speaking with The PIE News, Evans said it appeared the renewed push for foreign universities, which has been taking place on and off since 2012, falls in line with president Joko Widodo’s plans to increase human resource development, as well as a governmental desire to improve returns from its education subsidies.

“Over the last five… years, [the government] has been investing quite a considerable amount of its own resources in sending young Indonesians overseas to do study,” he said

“That’s a considerable expenditure, and [vice-president Jusuf Kalla]… has said ‘why are we sending so much money sending people overseas, why don’t we just get those universities here and we could save ourselves a lot of money’.”

Foreign universities have been a particular negotiating point in an Australia-Indonesia free-trade agreement, which is currently underway.

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