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Higher Education in Indonesia


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Higher learning in Indonesia has diverse roots extending back over centuries. Now, however, as one of the larger systems worldwide, it has goals to widen access and enhance quality, including the development of one or two world-class universities. The mushrooming of an extensive private sector, not always well regulated, has meant that, with few exceptions, it tends to be of lower quality than public sector higher education institutions. Two main ministries, one devoted to Islamic education, are responsible for the administration of the sector, but the extent of its growth has made effective and transparent quality assurance standards difficult to maintain. Equity, too, remains an issue, with poorer students often paying more for an inferior education. Modest regionalization efforts are ongoing, as are moves toward devoting more autonomy to at least a few of its leading universities. But significant challenges remain, including inequities, quality assurance, corruption, and some extremist elements.KeywordsDiversityDemographic challengePrivate and publicCorruptionUnequal accessQuality assuranceChallenges
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Higher Education in Indonesia
Anthony Welch and E. Aminudin Aziz
Overview .......................................................................................... 2
Access ............................................................................................. 4
Student Assessment . .............................................................................. 7
Curriculum ........................................................................................ 8
Quality ............................................................................................. 10
Inclusion and Equity .............................................................................. 12
Digital Technologies and Innovations ............................................................ 14
Training and Professional Development ......................................................... 15
Leadership and Governance ...................................................................... 17
Higher Education for Development .. . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Trends and Key Challenges ...................................................................... 20
References ........................................................................................ 26
Higher learning in Indonesia has diverse roots extending back over centuries.
Now, however, as one of the larger systems worldwide, it has goals to widen
access and enhance quality, including the development of one or two world-class
universities. The mushrooming of an extensive private sector, not always well
regulated, has meant that, with few exceptions, it tends to be of lower quality than
public sector higher education institutions. Two main ministries, one devoted to
Islamic education, are responsible for the administration of the sector, but the
extent of its growth has made effective and transparent quality assurance stan-
dards difcult to maintain. Equity, too, remains an issue, with poorer students
A. Welch (*)
School of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
E. A. Aziz
Department of English Education, Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia, Bandung, Indonesia
© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2023
L. P. Symaco, M. Hayden (eds.), International Handbook on Education in South East
Asia, Springer International Handbooks of Education,
often paying more for an inferior education. Modest regionalization efforts are
ongoing, as are moves toward devoting more autonomy to at least a few of its
leading universities. But signicant challenges remain, including inequities,
quality assurance, corruption, and some extremist elements.
Diversity · Demographic challenge · Private and public · Corruption · Unequal
access · Quality assurance · Challenges
The national motto of the sprawling Indonesian archipelago, comprising 6,000
inhabited islands (5 principal ones), 270 million inhabitants, 34 provinsi (provinces),
and 719 languages (including the national Bahasa Indonesia, spoken by 200 million
as their second language), is Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity). It signies
Indonesian unity, notwithstanding richly diverse ethnic, linguistic, and cultural
backgrounds. This includes stark differences in population density: from 1302
people per square mile on Java to 6.4 in Papua. Long-standing suspicion of central
domination from Jakarta persists, from Aceh (Sumatra), at one end of the archipel-
ago, to West Papua, at the other end. Competing interpretations of the nations
foundational values of Pancasila (or Five Principles) have become more prominent,
particularly through growth of a more conservative Islam, including in higher
education (Bouchier 2019; WENR 2019; Welch 2015).
The Higher Education System
After completing the secondary stage, students enter higher education at around the
age of 19. Completing a Bachelor degree commonly takes 45 years, with the
exception of Medicine, which features a 7 year program. Programs at Institutes
and Polytechnics and Academies range from 1 to 4 years in duration. Most students
graduate from higher education at ages between 20 and 24, although outstanding
students may access an accelerated stream that allows them to complete schooling in
10 years, and a degree in 3.5 years. Total enrollments in 2018 numbered 8,037,208,
with almost 60% enrolled in private higher education institutions (HEIs), which
vastly outnumber public HEIs.
It should be noted that data on Indonesian HE are not entirely consistent,
depending on both the time of year the data is accessed and the source of the data.
The number of private HEIs, particularly, uctuates as they open and close, and the
Directorate General for Higher Education (DIKTI) attempts to regulate quality.
At the time of writing, there were 4621 HEIs in Indonesia (The authors are grateful
to Agustian Sutrisno for clarication of this point).
2 A. Welch and E. A. Aziz
Student-staff ratios are 1:17 across the archipelago but differ according to insti-
tutional type, and public or private status, as shown in Table 1.
Islamic Higher Education
But in the worlds most populous Muslim-majority nation, where 90% of the
population are of that faith, Islamic identity has been strengthening, including in
higher education. While Islam is not the state religion, and several other religions are
ofcially recognized, Islamic higher education is an important strand within the
national system. This is despite a rich, diverse history of higher learning that includes
both Buddhist and Hindu traditions (Heihduis 2001; Gelber 2007; Welch 2011;
Welch and Syai2013).
Although both public and private HEIs fall under the Ministry of Education and
Culture, or the MOEC (now the Ministry of Education Culture, Research and
Technology, MoECR&T) control, Islamic higher education falls under the Ministry
of Religious Affairs (MORA). Both enrollments and number of HEIs have been
growing: Welch and Syai(2013, p. 101) reported 550,000 students studying at
MORA HEIs, in 2010, but this rose to 1,253,733 in 20202021, at 854 HEIs
(of which 796 were private). Islamic HEIs currently enroll over 11% of the total
(WENR 2019). While Indonesian HEIs are formally secular, it is more useful to
think of a continuum between secular and religious.
Private Higher Education and Privatization of Public HEIs
The large majority of Indonesian HEIs remain private. In 20082009, of all 2744
HEIs, 97.13% were private. Figures from 2020 are similar, with 122 public HEIs, of
the cited overall total of 3171 equating to 96.2% private (DIKTI 2020c). But many
private HEIs are quite small, with enrollments often no more than 500. Hence 63 public
universities accounted for 51.64% of enrollments in 2019, while 683 PHEIs account
for 19.15% (Dikti 2020c;WENR2019; Welch 2021). Overall, the share of total
enrollments by PHEIs in 2018 (58.2%) was much lower than their proportion of
total HEIs. Nonetheless, it means that of total enrollments of 8,037,208, in 2018,
Table 1 Student staff ratios by institutional type
Type of Higher Educational Institution (HEI) Staff student ratio
University 1:30
Institute 1:22
School of higher learning 1:19
Polytechnic 1:16
Source: Dikti (2020b, Tables 49, 49a, 49b, 49c)
Note: Staff-student ratios are 1:24 in private HEIs, and 1:47 in public HEIs. In public institutes, the
ratio is 1:7, and 1:16 in private HEIs
Higher Education in Indonesia 3
4,243,651 were enrolled in PHEIs. Pressure on funding for public institutions has also
led to signicant privatization of public HEIs. The combined effect of a burgeoning
private sector, and privatization of public HEIs, has increased inequality of access.
Changing Demographics
Of Indonesias burgeoning population (projected to rise to 320 million by 2050),
approximately 70% will be of working age by 2030. While population growth
continues to increase demand, of great importance for higher education are rapid
urbanization and the rise of a substantial middle class that was expected to double
between 2013 and 2020 from 74 million to 141 million. This growth, together with
aspirations for their childrens education, has signicant implications for higher
education (GBG 2013). Overall, however, Indonesia ranks 116 on the UNs
Human Development Index, while its GDP per capita is less than half of its neighbor
Malaysia. Twenty-seven million Indonesians still live on less than US$1 per day, and
life expectancy is relatively low (signicantly lower than Vietnam, for example).
Regional inequalities remain profound.
As a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Indonesia has
made some progress toward achieving SDG 4.3 for tertiary education (including
university) of providing equal access for all to affordable quality education. None-
theless, inequalities of access persist, including affordability, class, rurality, and
geography. While Gross Enrollment Rates (GER) overall have risen signicantly
in recent times to over 36% in 2020, rates differ sharply across different provinces
(Dikti 2020b). Together with the numerical dominance of the private sector, largely
comprising lower quality HEIs, this limits progress toward attaining the provision of
quality higher education for all. The public sector holds the lions share of PhD and
Mastersenrollments (Inside Higher Education 2018; Dikti 2020c).
Overall spending on education in Indonesia remains relatively low, at 3.6% of
GDP, signicantly below that of ASEAN peers such as Thailand, Malaysia, or
Vietnam. The proportion spent on higher education is also low at 9% (WENR
2019). This may be explained in part by the preponderance of low-quality private
HEIs (that depend on fees for as much as 90% of their income). Nonetheless, the
overall effect does not augur well for lifting the quality of higher education overall,
or for producing at least a few world-class universities.
Considerable success in extending access to primary and secondary schooling has
not been entirely matched in higher education. A young population prole, with at
least 30% under the age of 15, increases pressure on access, as does the growing
middle class, and higher levels of aspiration (GBG 2013). In 2020, for example, of
489,601 applicants to public universities and institutes, only 96,496 were accepted,
and of 126,403 applicants to Polytechnics, only 47,319 (MOEC 2021, personal
4 A. Welch and E. A. Aziz
communication). The minimum entry requirement is the Senior Secondary School
Certicate [Ijazah SMA, MA, or SMK] (WENR 2019).
Despite a growing middle class, affordability remains an issue for many Indone-
sians, while corruption taints equal access (Jakarta Post 2019). Poverty remains a
problem: Of the poorest quintile, a mere 2.5% were enrolled, contrasting starkly with
the 65% from the wealthiest quintile (WENR 2019; UNICEF 2018, p. 136). The fact
that such a high proportion of enrollments falls within the private sector tends to add
to the nancial burden for many families (WENR 2019). Overall funding for higher
education and research is low, comprising only 9% of total education funding
(WENR 2019).
Enrollments totaled over 8 million in 2017, but overall GER that rose from 11.5%
in 1996 to 24.3% in 2015 (an average annual growth rate of 4.37%) explains little of
the variation between provinces. This ranged from 11% in Bangka Belitung to 127%
in DKI Jakarta (WENR 2019; UNICEF 2018).
That the private sector contains around 96% of all HEIs, and 58% of total
enrollments, also affects access. While the growth of the private sector has widened
access, private HEIs are largely fee driven, deriving as much as 90% of their budget
from fees. This signicantly affects access, and although some private HEIs are low
fee, they are often also of low quality, with a limited range of offerings. The majority
of private HEIs (PHEIs) are run by Yayasan, (foundations), which are supposedly
nonprot, but in many cases operate as a business. Major business interests and the
two main Islamic organizations (Muhammadiyah and Nahdatul Ulama) own and
operate PHEIs generally less regulated than public HEIs. The demographic prole
of both public and private HEIs differs sharply, between low-fee and high-fee
institutions. One survey revealed that average differentials between low-fee and
high-fee HEIs, public and private, ranged from 1450% to 2000% (Welch and Syai
2013, p. 103).
But private higher education clearly reveals a Janus face, each aspect of which
affects access (Welch 2011,2012a,b,2021). As seen above, the rst face addresses
the higher growth rates of private higher education, compared to public. Ever-
increasing demand for higher education has not been matched by public sector
capacity, hence the private sector has moved to ll the gap. This has led to very
different enrollment growth rates among private and public sectors. In 1974, public
and private sectors each enrolled less than 200,000, but by 1994 private HEI
enrollments had expanded to 1.4 million, while public sector enrollments had only
risen to 600,000 (Welch 2011, p. 34). By 2018, Asian Development Bank (ADB)
data showed public enrollments totaling 2.73 million, little more than half PHEI
enrollments of 5.01 million (ADB 2018, p. 1). Limited state budgets amid spiraling
demand provided much of the explanation:
... extend(ing) the number of (private) universities was the result of an over-ow of high-
school graduates who could not be accommodated in the existing public higher educational
institutes. ... The government needs to boost the private sectors participation in the
development of the countrys education, as part of an effort to cover the limited education
Higher Education in Indonesia 5
funds. ... the public higher institutions have limited absorptive capacity of senior high
school graduates. (Hardihardaja 1996, p. 31, see also Rosser 2016)
A more entrepreneurial approach by private HEIs also means they capture almost
double the overall share of international enrollments (47.4%) relative to public HEIs
(25.7%), but a much lower proportion of masters and PhD enrollments (Dikti
2020c). This is largely because most PHEIs are demand absorbing: low quality
and not among leading institutions, nationally or internationally (Levy 2011).
Recently however, a few elite private HEIs like Pelita Harapan, Bina Nusantara,
Universitas Muhammadiyah Malang, Ciputra, and Surabaya University (formerly
Universitas Trisakti Surabaya) have risen to national prominence. But the fact that
private HEIs are fee-driven directly affects access. Poorer families are often unable
to access such HEIs, on cost grounds.
The other aspect of privatization also affects access. The second Janus face stems
from the gap between burgeoning enrollments and much lower growth in govern-
ment support to public HEIs: Per-student funding has declined. This has spurred
privatization of public sector HEIs. While governments remain eager to expand
enrollments, often part of transitioning to a knowledge economy(IHE 2018), state
budgets have not kept pace. This increasing gap between enrollments and budgets
exerts additional pressures on public HEI budgets to seek new income sources.
Public HEIs have resorted to diverse means to sustain their bottom lines, some of
which were long associated with private HEIs (Welch 2012a,b). Jalur Khusus,or
Special Path(now often referred to by related HEIs as Jalur Mandiri, or Indepen-
dent Path), now means that one can pay much higher fees (including a donation)to
study Engineering at a major public HEI, than at an equivalent private institution.
Data from Tri Sakti (private) university, Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB), and
Gadjah Mada (each public) showed that total costs at the public HEIs were as
much as double of those at Tri Sakti (Welch 2011, p. 44). This clearly limits access to
those who can afford such high fees. The combined effect of the two forms of
privatization is to further marginalize poorer families, and limit their access to
(quality) higher education (Susanti 2011).
The COVID19 pandemic has also threatened the viability of many private HEIs,
with around half such HEIs reporting a drop in new student enrollments of 50% and
a rising dropout rate, due to nancial concerns. Smaller HEIs, some already mar-
ginal, were most affected, with a signicant number forced to merge or close (UWN
2021). Privatization of public sector HEIs complicates the picture further, with some
popular programs at leading universities charging very high fees, including to
guarantee access (Welch 2011). Regional inequalities persist: Population-dense
Java has the most HEIs and enrollments, as well as most institutions offering at
least four-year qualications listed in various international higher education league
tables (Dikti 2020a,c; UniRank 2020; Rosser 2016).
6 A. Welch and E. A. Aziz
Student Assessment
A demanding national exam ranks students for higher education entry. In 2014, 1.6
million senior secondary students sat the exam. Authorities working to reduce
cheating, and ensure valid results, boosted the number of parallel test forms,
employed more supervisors to invigilate, and considered computer-based testing
(CBT) (OECD/ADB 2015).
Within higher education, autonomy is accorded to academic staff over forms of
assessment. The central government simply sets the number of credit hours needed
to complete a course of studies; mode of assessment (including whether it includes a
practicum or eld study component, and, if so, specied minimum hours); and a nal
project signaling the end of study program. Many HEIs require students to write
research-based nal papers and defend these orally. They may also be required to
publish scholarly articles. Other HEIs merely require review articles after completing
courses equivalent to a research-based paper. In practice, the balance between
formative and summative assessment varies (Dikti 2020a,b,c). Typical forms of
assessment include individual/group assignments, class presentation, article reviews,
mini project, practicum, midsemester test, and nal test. Yet, in most cases only
midsemester tests and nal tests will be held, plus practicum for those subjects
containing such elements. In cases where only midsemester and nal test are given,
the proportion will be around 2540% for midsemester test and 6075% for nal
test. When a practicum is required, the proportion is between 10% and 20%. Given
substantial autonomy, many academic staff apply no midsemester and no nal tests,
and national exams that were previously required for private HEIs no longer exist.
A 2015 analysis pointed to the lack of national tools to measure and compare
learning quality outcomes across HEIs and recommended standardized student
assessment tools be developed (OECD/ADB 2015, p. 205).
Indonesias national qualication framework (Kerangka Kualikasi Nasional
Indonesia or KKNI), assesses studentscompetencies and skills against specied
course outcomes, but some HEIs and academic staff struggle to implement the new
system, for a range of reasons.
An Islamic HEI administered by MORA revealed students were assessed
according to several considerations: attendance, active classroom participation and
contribution, quizzes, and summative tests (mid and nal test). Summative tests
could be conducted after as little as seven class meetings. Teachers could design
different types of assessment: project-based, written-test, and presentation about a
topic. These could be undertaken as either group work or individually.
From 2020, student assessment changed signicantly. The Freedom Campus
policy, launched by the new Minister, allowed students to join off-campus apprentice
programs for up to three semesters. They could also participate in the Directorate
General for Higher Education (DIKTI)sKampus Mengajar (Campus Teaching)
project, whereby students stay in villages for up to three months while promoting
learning for community members. Project participation is equivalent to 11 credit
hours. Students are paid and also provided incentives toward tuition fees.
Higher Education in Indonesia 7
The wide range of Indonesian HEIs is reected in diverse curriculum arrangements.
These vary both within and across MoECR&T and MORA HEIs, as well as within
and between public and private institutions. While Indonesian is the medium of
instruction in higher education, English is becoming more common for some pro-
grams, as are English medium textbooks. Ministry plans to mandate English in
Indonesian universities have not come to fruition (WENR 2019). Nonetheless, a
number of universities, both public and private, and religious and secular, have
experimented with English as a medium of instruction (EMI). The degree of
receptiveness, however, is affected by the growing Islamic inuence in society,
questions of national identity, and a not uncommon perception of English as a tool
of Westernization (Dewi 2017).
Education laws 2003 and 2012 mandate several types of HEI, as seen in Fig. 1:
Community Academies, and Academies (Akademi) offering only one, or a few,
eld of study
Community Colleges (Akademi Komunitas) offering one or a limited number of
Polytechnics (Politeknik) offering vocational education or practical skills
Advanced Schools/Colleges (Sekolah Tinggi) offering academic and vocational
education in one discipline
Higher Education Institutes (Institut) consisting of several faculties or depart-
ments pertaining to one particular discipline
Universities (Universitas) offering a range of programs across several disciplines,
as well as professional education
Fig. 1 Types and levels of Higher Education Institutions (HEIS). (Source: Purnastuti and Izzaty
2016). Note: D1D4 are diploma-level programs, although D1 programs no longer exist
8 A. Welch and E. A. Aziz
The large majority of Private HEIs (PHEIs) offer a limited diet, often hinging
around popular areas such as Business, IT, and perhaps English language. Leading
public HEIs offer a more comprehensive curriculum, while MORA HEIs such as
STAINs (Sekolah Tinggi Agama Islam or State Colleges of Islamic Studies), and
IAINs (Institute Agama Islam Negeri or State Institutes for Islamic Studies), offer a
more restricted palette. Relative to these two, UINs (Universities Islam Negeri or
National Islamic University) offer a more comprehensive range of offerings (Hey-
ward and Sopantini 2013). A number of Islamic HEIs have been upgraded to
university (UIN) status in recent years from 3 in 2002 to the current 17, of the
total of more than 850 Islamic HEIs. As of 2020, a further nine STAINs were being
transformed into universities (MORA 2021, personal communication). Of the public
HEIs, 17 are UINs, 24 are IAINs, and 17 STAINs.
While an Islamic worldview applies in most Indonesian HEIs, Islamic institutions
have the added responsibility to adhere to a revelation-based set of moral norms that
should result in specic behaviors, sometimes summarized as Akhlakul Karimah
(noble characters). Islamic HEIs embrace both public and private institutions, some
teaching both Islamic and secular disciplines, and others adhering formally to an
Islamic curriculum. Islamic subjects include Tarbiya (education), Adab (humani-
ties), Usul al-din (philosophy), Sharia (law), Dawa (communication), and Dirasat
Islamiyah (Islamic and Arabic studies).
The 30 million-strong Islamic organization Muhammadiyah (followers of
Muhammad), operates 172 HEIs (as well as several thousand schools). Nahdlatul
Ulama (Revival of the Ulama), the worlds largest independent Islamic organization
(90 million members in 2019), also operates a network of Islamic HEIs.
Indonesias universities have not been free of extremist elements, although the
degree to which these have inuenced the formal curriculum is uncertain (Welch
2015). Its inuence on the informal curriculum is greater. From the 1980s, some
groups were linked to Hizb ut-Tahrir ( ), at Gadjah Mada in Jogjakarta
and the Bandung Institute of Technology (BIT). Banned in numerous countries
including Indonesia, Hizb ut-Tahrir remains legal in the UK, Germany, Australia,
and elsewhere.
In response to campus militancy, a national deradicalization blueprint developed a
national terrorism prevention program focusing on the thirteen provinces most
affected. One component focused on strengthening the capacity of universities to
resist terrorism. But some questioned training 575 trainers at Indonesian universities.
The training modules details also seemed rather vague. The program included visits
by radical Egyptian clerics, but its effectiveness in tempering radical elements was
unclear. More successful were visits to universities by local groups such as the
Survivors Foundation (Yayasan Penyintas) and Association for Victims of Terrorism
Bombings, who shared their stories.
Other curriculum inuences are more related to governance, devolution, and
institutional capacity. Additional implementation problems of Guidelines such as
Regulation 8, Law 123 of 2012 included mismatches between actual graduate out-
comes and external realities, poor understanding of the principles of the Indonesian
National Qualication Framework (KKNI), lack of expertise in curriculum
Higher Education in Indonesia 9
development, and difculties in implementing revelation-based norms into the new
curriculum (Erihadiana 2019).
These are all domestic inuences on curriculum. External inuences remain more
modest, despite regional associations such as the ASEAN University Network
(AUN), and Indonesias leading role within ASEAN more generally. Private univer-
sities have been more entrepreneurial in introducing international elements into the
curriculum and using English as a medium of instruction, but there is still consid-
erable resistance to allowing foreign branch campuses to operate in Indonesia.
Notwithstanding the national qualications framework (KKNI) , quality varies
greatly across the archipelago (Niedermeier and Pohlenz 2019). Most leading
HEIs remain within the public sector, although a handful of PHEIs now compete
vigorously, and are considered largely equivalent, at least in national terms. None-
theless, of the ve universities to be listed among the worlds top 1400 HEIs by the
Times Higher Education ranking (2018), for example, all were public institutions.
Only University Indonesia was among the top 1000. Three HEIs, (UI, ITB, and
UGM, all public) were listed in QSs World University Ranking (WUR) for 2018,
while none was listed in the authoritative Academic Ranking of World Universities
(ARWU) (Sukoco et al. 2021).
The lower status of the private sector is in large part a product of inadequate
controls. Too much growth in the private sector was ad hoc, and poorly regulated,
leading to signicant quality problems, as well as corruption (Varghese 2001; Welch
2011). At times, this reected collusion between PHEI owners and interests, and
ministerial ofcials, including from regional ofces responsible for regulating PHEIs
(Private University Coordinating Committees, or Kopertis).
The government classied PHEIs into three categories, according to quality
standards: equalized (implying an equivalence with public HEIs), recognized, and
registered (Rosser 2016). But the proliferation of private HEIs outstripped regulatory
capacity, leading to the development of an entire category of PHEIs that are
unaccredited (tidak terakreditasi). The poorly regulated proliferation of PHEIs, as
well as limited state capacity and transparency, has meant that quality assurance is
often less rigorous than it should be. This was despite provisions whereby students at
PHEIs of the rst two categories (recognized or registered) were required to take
nal exams at a public HEI, in order to qualify to receive their degree (Rosser 2016).
The regulatory system proved ineffective, however, due to both inadequate resources
for the national accreditation agency Badan Akreditasi Nasional Perguruan Tinggi
(BAN-PT) (established in 1994), and false reporting on the part of numerous PHEIs:
Data on [private HEIs] ...reported to the government in many cases do not t with the real
condition of the campus life. The false reports are made by the [private HEIs] to maintain
their current status or standing, and the Ofce of Private Higher Education cannot check and
match every detail with the [PHEIs] physical entities due to the limited number of staff and
10 A. Welch and E. A. Aziz
because there are a great number of universities. (Hardihardaja 1996, p. 44, see also Welch
2007,2011; Rosser 2016)
Traditionally, quality assurance (QA) had not been a priority. Higher education
was more concerned with widening access, and attempting to maintain equity. Only
after the fall of the Orde Baru (New Order) government in 1998, with support from
the World Bank, did quality assessments of both institutions and programs become
compulsory, at least for some public HEIs. In an effort to raise quality, the govern-
ment and World Bank collaborated in the late 1990s, to institute competitive funding
mechanisms for universities, at both undergraduate and graduate levels (see Nizam
2006, p. 40; Wicaksono and Friawan 2011, p. 182). But as Rosser points out, these
were pilot activities of a limited group of HEIs, all public (Rosser 2016, p. 120,
Wicaksono and Friawan 2011, p. 170 et seq.; GBG 2018).
But QA remains a signicant issue, stretching the resources of agencies such as
BAN-PT, then national quality assurance in higher education agency established in
the mid-1990s, initially to evaluate and accredit private HEI programs, and now the
main accreditation agency for all HEIs. All HEIs must have their programs
accredited and have internal QA centers, which in practice vary in strength. Program
accreditation is for 5 years (WENR 2019). In practice, as of September 2015,
717 HEIs had been accredited, of the national total of around 4500 (Niedermeier
and Pohlenz 2016, p. 26). Independent accreditation agencies (Lembaya Akreditasi
Mandiri [LAM]) have been established in specic disciplines and can be public or
private, but numerous challenges remain, at national and regional levels, for exam-
ple, regarding the ASEAN QA framework (AQAF). The EU SHARE program
helped to disseminate AQAFat national and institutional levels and supported pilot
schemes for internal and external QA (SHARE n.d.).
The robustness and transparency of the process is undermined by HEIs concerned
with preserving or enhancing their status and income, instances of which are
revealed below (see Corruption). Weaknesses are further exacerbated by rapid
growth, notably the mushrooming of low-quality private providers(WENR
2019; Wicaksono and Friawan 2011; UCA News 2018). Hence, in 2013, a major
BAN-PT accreditation backlog, estimated at 20%, led it to award temporary C
rating (pass level) without an accreditation process (WENR 2019). A national rating
exercise in 2017 awarded A-Grade accreditation status to just 65 HEIs, of a total of
4500 (GBG 2018). Public private distinctions were again evident, with 40.6% of
accredited programs at public HEIs receiving an A rating in 2013, compared to a
mere 6.4% of PHEI programs (WENR 2019; see also Wicaksono and Friawan 2011,
p. 170; UCA News 2018; Dikti 2020c, p. 53).
Staff quality also remains an issue, with over a third of lecturers holding a
bachelors degree or less. But, once again, the proportion of faculty with a PhD is
much higher in Java than in other islands (Wikacsono and Friawan 2011, p. 172).
Growing private sector problems provoked the Ministry of Research and Technol-
ogy (MHRT) in 2018 to propose revoking the accreditation of 1000 PHEIs that failed
to provide a quality education (WENR 2019). A ranking system in 2015 introduced
four categories: platinum, gold, silver, and bronze. Based on factors such as
Higher Education in Indonesia 11
publications and innovation (added in 2018), it was designed to boost competition,
help develop world classuniversities, and provide incentives to leading HEIs to
increase research output (WENR 2019).
The state examination referred to above was a relatively weakquality assurance
mechanism because there are many committees that handle a great number of
subject matters for different levels/strata of education(Rosser 2016, p. 120). The
requirement no longer exists for PHEI students, while the former tripartite catego-
rization has now been replaced by only two BAN-PT categories: accredited and
unaccredited. Under the former, there are three grades: Unggul (Outstanding), Baik
Sekali (Very Good), and Baik (Good). Designed to boost competition, a universitys
rank was based on such factors as publication output, and accreditation rating.
Scientic innovation was added as a further category in 2018 (WENR 2019).
The national quality assurance system is also a locus of corruption. Stretched by
the proliferation of HEIs across the archipelago in recent decades, especially PHEIs,
not all are covered by the accreditation process. But for those who do, a good BQN
rating is vital to their capacity to attract students and staff, as well as the ability to
attract external income in the form of grants and projects. In a number of cases, this
led to corruption, at times with the collusion of ofcials.
One case occurred within a private HEIs Faculty of Engineering, faced with an
imminent rating from BAN, in which it would become clear that key items of basic
equipment were absent. Knowing that this would result in a poor-quality rating, the
Faculty borrowed numerous items of major equipment from local engineering rms.
After the successful inspection, yielding a satisfactory B grade, all equipment was
promptly returned to the local rms. Such practices are by no means unknown:
Many private schools provide engineering education without sufcient equipment
to support the curriculum and end up compromising the quality of their graduates
(Buchori and Malik 2004). The system depends on bribery and collusion with
relevant ofcials and underscores the need for a more effective QA-regulatory
regime (Monocolumn 2012; Welch 2011; Siaputra and Santosa 2015; IIEP/CHEA
2016, p. 4).
Inclusion and Equity
Indonesias huge population, geographic spread, as well as ethnic and linguistic
diversity, has inhibited equality of access. Java retains the biggest concentration of
HEIs: The district DKI (Daerah Khusus Ibukota) Jakarta, for example, exhibits the
highest GER, at 99.56%, while the equivalent gure for Bangka Belitung province
(off the southeast coast of Sumatra) is just 8.34% (Purnastuti and Izzaty 2016,
p. 125). Of the 8483, 213 students enrolled in 2019, 602,263 or 7% dropped out,
but regional rates differed: from 2% in Banten and West Sulawesi, to 24% in North
Sulawesi. Dropout rates among Private HEIs were almost 3 times that of public HEIs
(Dikti 2020b, Tables 52, 52a, b, c). Ethnic minorities, whose rst language is not
Bahasa, and whose local culture differs from the HEI, may struggle (World Bank
2014a, p. 8). Examples of private HEIs established by ethnic communities include
12 A. Welch and E. A. Aziz
Res Publica University, Ma Chung University, and SF Teacher Institute
(Praphamontripong 2012; Welch 2007,2011).
Gender ratios are more balanced: Slightly more women than men are enrolled,
having risen from 44% in 2001 (Purnastasi and Izzaty 2016, p. 126; Welch 2011,
p. 40). Of total enrollments of 8,037,218 in 2018, 4,213,779 (52.4%) were female,
and 3,823,429 (47.6%) were male. But this is an overall gure: as with the overall
GER, the gender ratio varies signicantly from province to province.
Socioeconomic status is another important discriminator. Rates of attainment
vary starkly: from 43.6% among the wealthiest quintile, to 4.4% for the lowest
(Purnastuti and Izzaty 2016, p. 126). DIKTIs Strategic plan for 20092014, to offer
more scholarships (such as Bidikmisi,Beasiswa-PPA,andOlimpiade Sains Interna-
tional), subsidized able students from poor households, improved equity in left
behindregions, and helped lift the overall Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER), which
rose from 31.6% in 2016, to 36.1% in 2020 (Dikti 2020b). These schemes were
supplanted by the Indonesian Smart Card or Kartu Indonesia Pintar (KIP) in 2014;
the higher education version is known as Kip-Kuliah; and recipients can come from
public or private sector HEIs. A complex variety of fees (semester credit fees,
practical course fees, building maintenance fees, and a once onlyfee often several
times the annual tuition fee) was supplanted by a single tuition fee in 2013, including
needs-based subsidies for poorer students. Nonetheless, a 2010 study found that, of
students who dropped out of their course, 53.6% did so because they needed to work
to support their parents, and 35.8% because of economic factors(Songkaeo and
Yeong 2016).
Overall, students are subject to the same entry criteria, with the following
exceptions. Although some universities offer Special Needs study programs, these
are exceptions. But students with disability are in principle afforded special assis-
tance, to minimize discrimination in the acceptance process. Student from Papua
province are given privileged admission, as are other students in so-called 3T
regions: Terdepan (outermost), Terpencil (remote), and Terteggal (underdeveloped).
While the percentage of students from such categories varies from province to
province, they can choose any study program, according to local government
priorities. Scholarships and living allowances are also provided by government.
Efforts to equalize access were interrupted, rst by the regional currency crisis of
the late 1990s (Varghese 2001), the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 20072008,
and lastly by the economic downturn unleashed by the COVID19 pandemic of 2020,
estimated to have depressed national economic growth rates substantially. The worst
effects were on the poor and vulnerable, with millions more (of whom many had just
worked their way out of poverty) pushed (back) into it. Household income was
projected to decline signicantly, with clear equity implications, for both public and
private HEIs. The government instituted assistance to help pay tuition, and Internet
access fees.
Inclusion and equity rose to prominence again in 2012, in response to proposed
changes to university autonomy. which many students and some academic staff saw
as undermining equity. While there was considerable support for greater institutional
autonomy, existing provisions, which mandated that public HEIs accept 20% of all
Higher Education in Indonesia 13
students with academic potential from poor households, were seen as threatened by
moves to extend university autonomy, including the power to raise tuition fees and
accept (more) students who could pay (Heyward and Sopantini 2013, p. 85; GBG
2012). Facing widespread opposition, the proposed higher education legislation,
including Article 64 that ceded nancial autonomy, was postponed, although ulti-
mately passed in July 2012 (Welch and Aziz 2012; Republic of Indonesia 2012).
Fees for both public and private HEIs vary signicantly, but the leading PHEIs
can still cost double that of equivalent public HEIs (Songkaeo and Yeong 2016). Too
often, poorer students have few options. In practice, this means it is common for
poor students of ability to pay more, for a lower quality education (Welch 2011,
2012a; World Bank 2014a,b; Welch and Syai2013). As elsewhere in ASEAN, the
cumulative advantage experienced by middle class, wealthier families, able to send
their children to the best schools, leaves their children best placed to qualify for entry
into the best universities (with some exceptions mostly low-fee public institutions).
At least three further inequities are also evident. The rst is geographical, as
alluded to above 56% of universities in Java are accredited, but only 16% of
universities elsewhere. Moreover, all but one of Indonesias top-10 public universi-
ties are in Java (ADB 2018). The second inequity is a mix of socioeconomic and
geographic. While admission to Javanese public universities is open to all, the higher
cost of living in the nations capital, and largest city, means poorer students from
other islands cannot afford to attend. Effectively, and notwithstanding scholarships
such as Kip-Kuliah, such students are excluded from entry into the countrys
strongest HEIs. The third form of exclusion stems from the fact that Indonesia is
not a signatory to the international Refugee Convention (1951) that includes the right
to education. Hence, the 13,700 refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia (more
than half from Afghanistan), many of whom saw themselves as in transit, have now
been in Indonesia for years, but unable to access higher education. This is in large
part owing to the actions of countries such as Australia that enacted harsh legislation
to exclude so-called boat peopleseeking refuge from persecution in their
Digital Technologies and Innovations
Like some other large Asian higher education systems (India, Pakistan, and China),
Indonesia possesses a mega open university. Established by Presidential Decree
41 in 1984, with a remit from Kemenristekdikti to spread higher education and
expand opportunity, enrollments at Universitas Terbuka (UT) rose from 350,000 in
1995 to 646,647 in 2010 (Dhanarajan 2012), and 1,045,665 by 2019/2020. But since
Law 12, 2012, UT lost its monopoly over open and distance learning and moved to
sign MoUs with other universities, such as Universiti Halu Oleo (UHO) Kendari in
2018. Greater exibility offers year-round registration, no time limit for completing
qualications, and no year of graduation from senior high school. As well as being
licensed by BAN-PT, UTI was accredited by the International Council for Open and
14 A. Welch and E. A. Aziz
Distance Education (ICDE), in 2005, and is a member of the Asian Association of
Distance Universities.
Via its four faculties (Science and technology; economics; law social and political
sciences, and teacher training), UT offers two program types: Pendas (Basic Edu-
cation) and Non-Pendas (Nonbasic education). The latter is open to the public, while
the Pendas Program is targeted, including Undergraduate Study for Education for
Teachers of Elementary School (PGSD) and Undergraduate Study for Education of
Early-Years Children (PGPAUD). Fully online programs commenced in 2016, and
students have free access to UTIs Digital Library, and Ruang Baca Virtual (RBV).
International partnerships include the University of Maryland (USA) and National
University of Kaohsiung (Taiwan).
As elsewhere, COVID 19 spurred moves to online education, since the pandemic
made conventional face-to-face instruction dangerous. In mid-2020, Education
Minister Nadiem Makarim insisted all universities continue teaching and learning
online. HEIs across the country rose to the challenge, according to their circum-
stances. The government offered 1 Gb of Internet access to public university
students, and staff. Some private HEIs distributed 200,000 Rupiah to each student,
to enable them to afford online classes, although this was insufcient to pay for video
lectures, especially for poorer families unable to supplement the amount to pay for
mobile broadband (UWN 2020c). Students were required to submit assignments
using Powerpoint and submit essays via email. Some HEIs had already adopted an
online learning system known as SPADA (Sistem Pembelajaran Daring), or another
(ELISA), despite intermittent Internet connection in some areas, and prohibitive
mobile broadband costs for poor students, some of whom used Twitter to demand
postponement of some tuition fees.
A growing number of universities are offering distance learning programs, and
integrating e-learning. The government is keen to encourage this development, and
the e-learning market grew by 25% from 2010 to 2015, with considerable potential
for further growth (WENR 2019; UWN 2020e). In addition, the Ministry made some
training in online teaching available, but only to public universities. Private univer-
sities availed themselves of training programs organized by Kopertis, at provincial
level. The relatively greater autonomy of private HEIs meant they were quicker to
Training and Professional Development
Professional development evolved into more systematic forms in recent years but
varies signicantly from institution to institution, including in relation to transpar-
ency. Prior to Law 14/2005 Re Teachers and Lecturers, undergraduate degree
holders could apply for a teaching position in HEIs. But since this Law, all lecturers
must hold at least a masters degree (although in practice around one-third of
lecturers hold only a bachelor qualication) (WENR 2019). A study program or
department offering a mastersdegree course must employ at least six doctorate
holders, and if a doctoral level course is also on offer, a further four doctorate holders
Higher Education in Indonesia 15
and two full-time professors are required. Only those wishing to become lecturers at
postgraduate levels (Masters or Dotoral) are required to hold a PhD degree.
Academic ranks underwent dramatic change in 1999, when the Government
reduced the complex 14-level system to four levels: assistant lecturer, lecturer, senior
lecturer, and professor. This policy was designed to accelerate promotions from
lecturer to professor. Since 2010, to be promoted to professor, a lecturer must publish
at least three scholarly articles two in nationally accredited journals, and one in a
reputable and globally accredited journal.
Both DIKTI and individual HEIs provide research funds for academic staff.
Diverse DIKTI (Directorate General for Higher Education (DGHE) funds are
awarded via national competition. Expert panels from universities review proposals.
Private HEIs applications are coordinated through LLDikti (the higher education
Service Centre). Almost all public HEIs lecturers are tenured government ofcials,
employed full-time by the central government through the Ministry of Education and
Culture. Excepting Professors, who retire at 70, all faculty must retire at 65.
Although moving from one HEI to another is possible, in practice it is very rare.
Once employed by a HEI, a lecturer normally retires in the same HEI, excepting
those who submit special requests for a transfer. Some academics in private HEIs are
also tenured; most are hired by the relevant Yayasan (foundation), to which many
become tenured.
HEI Research funding is used by the DGHE to measure their commitment to
professional development of their lecturers. The DGHE also uses the gures when
matching-fundneeds to be allocated by the Ministry. The more funding provided
by the HEIs, the greater is the matching fund allocated by the Ministry. Once again,
this favors wealthier and more well-established HEIs, mostly public sector. As of
April 2018, in a move that attracted both praise and blame, foreigners may serve as
permanent academics, a reform designed to boost quality and competitiveness within
the system (Ompusunggu et al. 2018).
The MoEC (now MoECR&T) encourages lecturers to pursue higher degrees,
either domestically or overseas. Various scholarship schemes exist to upgrade
academic qualication, and the Ministry also provides funding for lecturers willing
to speak at international seminars or conferences. Publication awards were intro-
duced to stimulate international publications and patent registrations. Unfortunately,
in recent years, the Ministry detected numerous instances of publishing articles in
predatory or nonreputable journals, and then using them as a basis for promotion.
Within MORA-administered HEIs, various professional development options are
offered every semester by a faculty or a unit, such as a language center. Lecturers are
encouraged to undertake doctoral and postdoctoral qualications and participate in
conferences, seminars, and workshop. Some grants are available to support such
activities, but once again, smaller and less well-known PHEIs struggle to provide
much support, and/or are less interested to do so.
16 A. Welch and E. A. Aziz
Leadership and Governance
There are two main ministries responsible for governance of the sector. The newly
merged Ministry of Education Culture, Research and Technology (MoECR&T)
Kementerian Pendidikan, Kebudayaan, Riset, dan Teknologi (or Kemdikbudristek)
is the main authority responsible for higher education, with over 3000 HEIs, while the
much smaller Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA), or Kementerian Agama,with
some 244,000 employees, is responsible for religious education, overwhelmingly
Islamic. This includes higher education, with more than a thousand higher education
institutions (HEIs), almost all private. There are, in addition, some specialist HEIs that
are administered by ministries such as defense (IPDF 2020)(Table2).
Devolution, Quality, and Inequality
The years since 1998 have seen some devolution to the provincial level, mostly
within the principal Ministry, and there have also been incipient moves to grant more
autonomy to a small number of leading Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Eleven
state universities were declared autonomous in 2014, with greater authority over
academic, nonacademic, and nancial matters (Sukoco et al. 2021).
To some extent, reforms in higher education governance result from tensions
between two opposing forces. On the one hand, as in several other ASEAN member
states, the MoEC, now MoECR&T, has traditionally governed higher education
quite tightly and has been reluctant to cede much control. For example, entrance to
university is governed by the Higher Education Law of 2012. Rectors and other
senior leaders were government appointees (usually selected from the ranks of their
own institution), but even internal matters such as staff travel and course approvals
required the imprimatur of the MoEC (now MoECR&T). Finance, too, was tightly
regulated. Staff were considered public servants, and student involvement in politics
restricted (Rosser 2016).
Within the MoECR&T, control is exercised through the Directorate General for
Higher Education (DIKTI) which, unlike school administration, was not
decentralized to provincial and district levels, in what was sometimes termed Big
Bangdecentralization, in 2001. DGHE has accordingly continued to coordinate,
supervise, and direct all state and private HEIs(Rosser 2016, p. 113), although
14 provincial branchofces, known as Lembaga Layanan Pendidikan Tinggi
Table 2 Higher Education
Institutions (HEIs),
Indonesia 2020
Public HEIs (PTN) 122
Private HEIs (PTN) 3044
Government HE Institutions (PTK/L) 187
Religious HEIs 1240
Total 4593
Source: Dikti (2020c)
Higher Education in Indonesia 17
(LLDikti), or HEI Service Centres now exist. An important difference between the
two major ministries is that, while MoEC (now MoECR&T) was decentralized as
part of administrative reforms in the late 1990s, MoRA remains centralized. There
have also been reports of struggles between the Department of National Education
(DNE), which remains enthusiastic about decentralization, and resistance on the part
of the Departments of Finance and Home Affairs (Welch 2012b). In practice, most
HEIs have limited autonomy (WENR 2019; Pannen et al. 2019).
While Indonesia is formally a unitary republic, in practice provinces have sub-
stantial autonomy, albeit less in higher education. In 2015, the Directorate General of
Higher (DGHE) education was split off from the Ministry of National Education and
merged into the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education (MRTH)
that was charged with administering both public and private higher education, and
supervision of quality control. The DGHE remained responsible for higher education
(Ngo and Meek 2019).
The merger, however, faced bureaucratic difculties. Announced in October
2014, with the responsibility to oversee higher education, a presidential decree
followed in late January 2015, outlining the new ministrys organizational structure
and functions. Five Directors General were announced: learning and students;
science, technology, and higher education institutions; scientic, technology, and
higher education resources; strengthening research and development; and strength-
ening innovation. The merger was rescinded in 2019, with DIKTI separated from the
former joint body Ristekdikti (Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Edu-
cation). In 2021, President Widodo proposed the merger of the Ministry of Educa-
tion and Culture with the Ministry of Research and Technology, to form a new
Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology. The reform was approved
in April 2021, and Nadiem Makarim was appointed the inaugural minister. The
Directorate of Higher Education became the Directorate of Higher Education,
Research, and Technology.
University Autonomy
Providing more autonomy to universities, including a degree of nancial autonomy
accorded to a handful of leading public HEIs in 2012, allowed them, among other
things, to set higher fees, while relieving some nancial burden from central
ministries. Initially, four leading universities (all public) were selected to pilot the
introduction of greater academic control and nancial autonomy to the institutional
level: Universitas Indonesia (UI), Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB), Institut
Pertanian Bogor (IPB), and Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) were given the status
of Badan Hukum Milik Negera (BHMN), or state-owned legal institution.Tw o
further institutions were added in 2004: Universitas Sumatera Utara (USU) and
Universitas Perdidikan Indonesia, (UPI), Bandung, and in 2006: Universitas
Airlangga in Surabaya. Currently, there are 12 BHMN status universities, including
Universitas Padjadjaran (UNPAD) in Bandung, Universitas Hasanuddin (Unhas) in
Makassar, South Sulewesi (Celebes), Universitas Diponegoro (UNDIP) in
18 A. Welch and E. A. Aziz
Semarang, Central Java, Institut Sepuluh November Surabaya (ITS) in Surabaya
East Java, and Universitas Negeri Surakarta (UNS) in Solo, Central Java. With one
exception, all are situated in Java.
Greater autonomy included more control over academic programs, including
curriculum, as well as stafng matters, including promotion and the freedom to
elect university leaders, from Rector to heads of departments. Greater control over
institutional nances included both the authority to diversify income sources, and to
use such funds for academic innovations. An attempt to reverse the process, via
Government Regulation no. 66/2010, proposed all seven BHMN institutions effec-
tively revert to the pre-2000 status of Perguruan Tinggi yang Diselenggarakan
Pemerintah (PTP), or Government-Administered Universities. The rationale was
said to be that it would force institutions to remit the substantial funds gained from
community sources to the Ministry of Finance (albeit without any assurance that it
would be returned to universities, to be used for academic purposes) (Welch and
Aziz 2012). Despite the attempted reversal, the autonomy proposal was nally
passed into law in mid-2012 (GBG 2012).
The chosen universities could diversify their income sources but remained
accountable via annual public audit. Providing more institutional autonomy relieved
the government of some responsibility for funding, and BHMN universities have
since raised signicant funds from community sources. Some of the twelve BHMN
universities have been more entrepreneurial than others: at least one now gains half
of its budget from community funds. Sources include fee-paying training programs
for local and international businesses, and local government, marketing Executive
programs which offer degree-level programs on weekends and at evenings, for high
fees, and using Jalur Khusus/Mandiri to offer reserved places in high-demand
courses to those with the capacity to pay higher fees. The chosen institutions were
ceded additional forms of autonomy including the authority to raise their own funds,
manage block funding from the government, approve strategic plans, develop human
resource policies, and appoint their own Rectors. The selected HEIs were termed
Perguruan Tinggi Negeri-Badan Hukum (State Higher Institutions-legal entity)
(Ngo and Meek 2019, p. 20). Other HEIs held little autonomy over administration
or nance.
Higher Education for Development
The Higher Education Law of 2012 remains the key document setting out the role of
higher education in national development. In general, it can be said that higher
education must be based on the principles of Tridharma: education, research, and
community service. In addition, the National Standards for Higher Education
(SNPT) includes the additional element of global competitiveness. Regulation 8 of
Higher Education Law (2012) relates to the Indonesian National Qualication
Framework (KKNI) that covers higher education qualications, from Level
3 (Diploma) to Level 9 (Doctorate). But applying Regulation 8 entails compe-
tency-based learning outcomes such as communication skills, work readiness,
Higher Education in Indonesia 19
critical thinking, responsible citizenship, and environmental sensitivity, which can
be challenging for many HEIs, including Islamic institutions. To assist with imple-
mentation, DIKTI published Guidelines for Preparation of Learning Outcomes for
Study Program Graduates, in 2014. As an example, UIN Sunan Gunung Djati
Bandung implemented a four-step plan that began with specifying graduate proles
and learning outcomes, and ultimately produced an overall learning plan.
But problems persist, including the relationship between graduate outcomes and
market demand. The Central Statistics Agency estimated rates of unemployment for
new graduates as high as one in four, attributed to a mismatch between higher
education and the labor market. In 2018, the Global Competitiveness Index ranked
Indonesias labor market efciency at 3.9 out of 7 and 96th out of 140 countries,
while its technological readiness was rated at 3.9 and 80th (WENR 2019;ADB
A second problem is the relatively weak contribution of higher education to
knowledge creation. In common with several ASEAN peers, the higher education
sector in Indonesia contributes little to national Research and Development [R&D],
which at 0.226 of GDP in 2018 remains very low (Welch 2011; World Bank 2013;
World Bank Indicator n.d.). Its knowledge Economy Index at 3.11, Innovation rating
at 3.24, and number of articles at 262 are both well below its neighbor Malaysia (6.1,
6.91, and 1351, respectively), although citations per paper were well above (World
Bank 2013). Of overall R&D performance, higher education contributes a mere
14%, much lower than its ASEAN peers. There were no Indonesian university
features among the leading HEIs worldwide, with only Universiti Indonesia listed
among the top 1000 according to the Times World University Rankings 2021 (but not
according to either the Shanghai JiaotongsAcademic Ranking of World Universi-
ties,orQSWorld University Rankings).
Trends and Key Challenges
Indonesian higher education reveals a mix of achievement and challenge. The
vigorous expansion of higher education, now among the worlds largest systems,
has opened up higher education access to more and more of Indonesias burgeoning
population of over 270 million. Total enrollments of over 8 million attest to both
growing demand, and institutional response. Government provision of scholarships
has helped poorer students, including from rural, or left behindareas, and lifted the
Gross Enrollment Ratio. The opening up of the system to foreign branch campuses,
such as the new Monash initiative, can help to introduce further innovation, foster
more internationalization, and boost competition. As an important member of the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Indonesia is able to take advantage of
pan-ASEAN initiatives to advance regional collaboration, staff and student mobility,
and development of a greater sense of ASEAN identity.
At the same time, the system faces a number of key challenges. Like several
ASEAN neighbors, enrollment growth remains quite uneven, with substantial socio-
economic disparities clearly evident. Overall growth in the Indonesian economy has
20 A. Welch and E. A. Aziz
been paralleled by a growing gap between rich and poor, and rural-urban inequalities
remain, as does a degree of geographic concentration across the archipelago, with
most (leading) HEIs on the densely populated island of Java. While one or two are
listed in an international league table, the ambition to create World Classuniver-
sities lies largely unrealized. Decentralization of authority has been somewhat
inconsistent: MORA remained centralized, while MOEC (now MoECR&T) was
decentralized. Inadequate MOEC (now MoECR&T) MORA coordination, and
between public and private sectors, perpetuates needless duplication and inefcient
resource usage. Institutional autonomy, extended to a small number of leading
universities, is opposed by some government elements.
Internationalization and Regionalization
International initiatives only emerged in the late 1990s, amid lingering concerns
about the impact of foreign competition on local universities. The minister proposed
allowing foreign HEIs to operate through joint ventures with Indonesian partners,
subject to two conditions: rst, that foreign providers incorporate 5080% of the
Indonesian national curriculum (Rosser 2016; Jakarta Post 1998); the second man-
dated that joint ventures fulll PHEI requirements and regulations, and pass an
MoEC (now MoECR&T) evaluation.
Such restrictive conditions attracted little foreign interest, other than the Swiss-
German University in Jakarta, established as a private, not-for-prot university in
2000 (Rosser 2016, pp. 120121; SGU n.d.). More recently, after ratifying an
Indonesia-Australia bilateral comprehensive economic agreement (2020), Monash
universitys proposal for a branch campus revived long-standing concerns about
foreign competition (Sutrisno 2018). The concerns were expressed most by PHEIs,
which felt particularly vulnerable:
They [foreign universities] should only offer study programs that arent commonly available
in Indonesia so that there wont be head-to-head competition. Otherwise, there will be
[market] shifts, and consequently, smaller universities wont have students anymore.
(Jakarta Post 2020)
Others celebrated the potential for strengthening research, especially via bilateral
projects and collaborations:
... with or without a branch campus here, many Indonesians will continue to go abroad for
their advanced studies. A Monash closer to home can instead be leveraged for more intense
collaboration with our local scientic community. (Jakarta Post 2020)
Mutual benet was also considered important:
... all (such international) collaborations need to be mutually benecial, in which our
academic community are being elevated through the co-operation, not just as a market
thats exploited by those players. (Jakarta Post 2020)
Higher Education in Indonesia 21
The Monash initiative, emphasizing masters and PhD programs (as well as
Executive programs and microcredentials), underlined its postgraduate prole,
emphasis on research, and links to industry. Initial courses were in data science,
urban design, business innovation, public policy and management, and public
health. Total 200 masters candidates were to be initially recruited, with plans for
2000 within 10 years (UWN 2020a,b; Monash University 2020). Total 100 PhD
candidates were also to be recruited, and a similar number of academic staff, some of
whom were likely to be local, but some international (including well-qualied
recruits from the Indonesian knowledge diaspora). Future developments will need
to be monitored closely. This includes meeting a goal of 20% of students from
overseas. Fees were to be proportionate to purchasing power and cost of living:
lower than the mother campus, or at Monash Malaysia (UWN 2020a).
Indonesias peripheral status within the current global knowledge system limits
its capacity to recruit many international students. Currently, no Indonesian univer-
sity enrolls over 500 international students, and the total of 6000 in 2016 compares
with Malaysias 63,000 and Singapores 52,000 (GBG 2016,2019; UIS 2020). The
largest contingents stem from Malaysia and Timor Leste, with Thailand, India, and
China also sending signicant numbers (WENR 2019; UIS 2020). Overall, Indone-
sian sends far more students abroad than it receives: In 2010, 8955 Indonesian
students studied at Malaysian HEIs, a number that had not increased by 2017.
This compared to 2955 Malaysian students enrolled in Indonesian HEIs (Chao
2017). A signicant element is the Islamic culture common to both. Australian
data from 2014 showed between 15,000 and 18,000 Indonesian students enrolled
in Australian universities, and around 17,000 in 2019. This compared to a mere
200 Australian students in Indonesian HEIs, mostly in short intensive-language
courses. Only 50 were enrolled in degrees (Welch 2014, p. 156).
Government preference for public over private HEIs means formal regional
initiatives are largely restricted to public sector HEIs (Welch 2012b). Regulatory
capacity, including quality assurance, is still limited, as is the quality of many HEIs.
Late 1990s decentralization (albeit less in higher education) also inhibits further
developments (Amirrachman et al. 2008). Characterized as decentralizing corrup-
tion, the process was at times co-opted by local authorities for their own ends (Welch
2012b). Lastly, the reluctance of central ministries to cede much control, including to
regional initiatives, inhibited more robust progress. Differing development levels
and little history of international policy coordination are further constraints
(Jayasuriya 2003, pp. 209210).
Although ASEAN regionalism is more embryonic than elsewhere, Indonesia is a
major force, and ASEAN and APEC regional initiatives include higher education
(Jayasuriya 2003; Welch 2012b). The ASEAN University Network (AUN), founded
in 1995, includes Universitas Indonesia,Institut Teknologi Bandung,Universitas
Gadjah Mada, and Universitas Airlangga (AUN n.d.). Indonesia is also a member of
the South East Asian Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMEO) and its
Regional Institute of Higher Education (RIHED). The Malaysia-Indonesia-Thailand
(MIT) student mobility project, commenced in 2010 and coordinated by the
22 A. Welch and E. A. Aziz
respective national higher education organs and SEAMEO RIHED, was a pilot,
promoting an ASEAN higher education space (Aphijanyatham, 2010).
As a world religion, Islamic higher education also has international dimensions.
Thousands of Indonesian students now study in Malaysian universities; by 2007,
Indonesia had replaced China as the largest source of international students from the
region (Welch 2011, p. 71). Figures of 2010 indicated a total of 9888 Indonesian
enrollments in Malaysian universities, 6119 in private HEIs, and 3769 in public
HEIs (Welch 2012b, p. 100). Despite ambitious targets, this had declined slightly to
around 9000 in 2017, and COVID19 travel and visa restrictions have further reduced
student ows, with the greatest impact on private HEIs (New Straits Times 2017;
UWN 2020d). Some students enroll at the International Islamic University of
Malaysia (IIUM), while a number of Malaysian private HEIs have developed branch
campuses in Indonesia, apparently without accreditation.
Further international dimensions include membership by a number of HEIs of the
Federation of Universities of the Islamic World (FUIW n.d.). Indonesia is also a
member country of the pan-Islamic Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC),
inter alia concerned with raising the quality of Islamic higher education, quality
assurance, and accreditation.
As in several other Southeast Asian higher education systems, it is not feasible to
understand governance, without including its close cousin corruption (Welch 2020a,b).
In the case of Indonesia, the culture and idiom Korupsi, Kolusi, Nepotisme (KKN) is
well established. It captures both the spirit and forms of corruption in society, including
in the higher education sector.
Many people view corruption in education ... as being petty, unavoidable and perhaps even
morally acceptable. They see it as an understandable response by low-status public servants
and teachers to supplement their miserable incomes. Moreover, a large amount of corruption
in the sector simply passes under the radar of the public: it either takes place behind the
closed doors of bureaucrats and politicians, or it takes the form of various education fees and
charges that (students) and their parents routinely pay without even realizing they are illegal.
(Widoyoko 2011, p. 166)
Corruption eradication programs have had limited effect; much remains to be
done (UQ 2015). Politics and cronyism are at the centre of decisions,according to
the global organization Transparency International (AFR 2019). The recent gut-
tingof the highly respected Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) which had
made some powerful enemies by bringing charges against high-level gures includ-
ing mayors, judges, and leaders of powerful state-owned enterprises, only exacer-
bated the situation (AFR 2019; Mulholland and Sanit 2020). Transparency
International, which was highly critical of the gutting of the KPK, rated Indonesia
at 102 of 180 countries in 2020, with an overall score of 37 (100 represents absence
of corruption and 1 means highly corrupt).
Higher Education in Indonesia 23
Bribery and corruption are widespread in the civil service, including the higher
education sector (Prabowo and Cooper 2016; Welch 2020a,b). In part, this stems
from the increasing gap between spiraling enrollments and limited state funding,
which has pushed universities to diversify their income. As an Indonesian university
President lamented some years ago: My main task is to raise funds and obtain
money(Jakarta Post 2006). In 2012, a legislator was indicted on bribery charges,
after intervening in contract negotiations regarding the purchase of laboratory
equipment for 16 universities. Financial malfeasance also aficts university leaders,
with the University of Indonesia, the countrys leading HEI, rocked by charges of
misuse of funds for the universitys library and IT infrastructure. A vice-rector was
ultimately found guilty, and the rector was forced to resign (Sutrisno 2020). In 2015,
the Rector of Jakarta State University (UNJ) (formerly IKIP Jakarta), formerly
graded at the highest level by BAN, was charged with cronyism (appointing several
relatives), ring or transferring at least ten senior ofcials who had criticized his
policies, and awarding 327 doctoral degrees himself from 2012 to 2016. Effectively,
this meant supervising 65 such candidates to completion, each year (including the
Governor of Southeast Sulawesi, whose thesis was 74% plagiarized). While the UNJ
Rector was suspended, no investigation was ever undertaken into suspected bribery
(Sutrisno 2017,2020).
As in several ASEAN higher education systems, numbers of Indonesian HEIs
have instituted parallel private training programs or institutions that are not always
well governed, and lack transparency. Often called executive or diploma programs,
they often feature low, or no entry, requirements and are taught by the same staff
from the public HEI, in the evening or weekends, for high fees (Welch 2011,2020a).
Unfortunately, such private ventures that blur the lines between public and private
are often poorly regulated: The potential for corruption is substantial. Data detailing
such new income streams is often either incomplete or lacks transparency. It is often
unclear whether the income generated is used (as is claimed) to provide scholarships
for poor students of ability, who would otherwise fail to nd a place, or whether it
goes into some leaderspockets. Numerous allegations have been made, including of
Given limited availability in public HEIs, competition for places is erce; this too
leads to bribery and corruption (UWN 2009; Logli 2016; Jakarta Globe 2012,2013).
In 2013, for example, the national entrance exam was canceled following allegations
by the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (FITRA) that the rm charged
with printing the exam papers paid bribes to win the contract (Jakarta Globe 2012,
2013). Fears were also raised of leakage of exam questions, prompting the Minister
of National Education, Mohammad Nuh, to promise to resign, if allegations of
corruption were substantiated. Numerous PHEIs offer preparatory courses that
falsely guarantee entry into UI, ITB, or other such leading public HEIs for a
substantial fee (UWN 2009), at times, with the collusion of the HEIs own
Persistent cronyism is a further problem. Especially during the Orde Baru regime,
... strict control over senior HEI appointments, restrictions on academic freedom,
and widespread corruption within the civil service combined to create a context in
24 A. Welch and E. A. Aziz
which senior management positions at HEIs could be sold to the highest bidder
(Rosser 2016, p. 119). University leaders were appointed by patronage; regime
loyalty surpassed academic qualities (Sutrisno 2020, p. 133). Rather than focusing
on teaching and research excellence, a more important incentive for many academic
staff was to gain promotion, especially to senior administrative positions that
provided opportunities for income supplementation through perks of ofce and
corruption(Rosser 2016, p. 119; see also Nugroho 2005, p. 155). Other forms of
corruption included awarding contracts to business interests, in return for a payment,
extracting fees from grants gained by more junior colleagues, and the and the sale of
university places to prospective students willing to pay bribes(Rosser 2016, p. 119;
Watson 1986).
Anal example is the practice of reserving some places at public HEIs, in popular
programs such as engineering, for students of wealthy families who did not qualify
for entry. The effect is that the student is private, but the HEI is public. The
introduction of what was known as Jalur Khusus/Mandiri was justied on the
basis that the additional income generated would provide scholarships for poor
students of ability, who would otherwise not be able to attend. Lack of nancial
transparency, however, made it very difcult to ensure the additional funds were
being devoted to the purpose for which they were designed, while the MOEC (now
MoECR&T) showed little or no interest in investigating alleged misuse.
Faced with declining budgetary support from the state, ITB Bandung offered ten
such places in its physical engineering program upon payment of an entry fee of
225 million Rupiah, equivalent at the time to US$26,740. Other leading public HEIs
offered highly sought-after places in medical programs, at a fee of 150 million
Rupiah (US$ 17,650), while in another example, almost 30% of students sitting
the entry exam for the leading Gajah Mada University, in Yogjakarta, were found to
have paid brokerage feesof up to US$22,000 for a guaranteedplace (UWN
2008; Welch 2011, p. 43). Some middlemen were from within the ranks of the HEI
itself or colluded with private providers.
In sum, regulatory capacity has increased but still struggles to adequately monitor
quality across 4500 HEIs belonging to several ministries, especially in the poorly
regulated private sector, where, as in many other arenas, practice diverges from the
regulations. Institutional autonomy is increasing, although opposed by some central
ofcials. While a priority, equity remains an issue, despite scholarships and other
initiatives. International initiatives, too, remain limited. Extremism, while limited, is
of growing concern. Lastly, KKN (corruption) remains endemic and continues to
undermine efforts to improve both quality and equity within the higher education
system. Mushrooming private HEIs, as well as the privatization of public sector
HEIs, provides more opportunities for corrupt practices. The enthusiasm of students
and dedication of many staff and ofcials are the major sources of hope for the
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The topic of governance is much discussed in the higher education literature. Corruption is less discussed, and mostly in general and cautionary terms. Yet there are important relations between the two. The current article critically examines the literature on governance in higher education and underlines the relationship to forms of corruption in the field. While much literature on corruption in education outlines regulatory practices, or Codes of Practice to limit its reach, the current analysis both reviews types of corruption in higher education, and illustrates them with actual examples from several systems of higher education in East and South East Asia. While corrupt practices in higher education are by no means unique to the region, (indeed examples can be found worldwide, in virtually every system), most rank poorly on conventional measures of transparency. The article advances our understanding of the complex and dynamic relationship between corruption and governance in higher education, in what is arguably the most dynamic world region.
Education in South-East Asia is a comprehensive critical reference guide to education in South East Asia. With chapters written by an international team of leading regional education experts, the book explores the education systems of the ten member states of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the state of Timor-Leste. The diverse range and forms of culture, religion and politics embedded in the region are exhibited in the distinctive education systems that inter-relate in one of the most integrated regions in the world. Including a comparative introduction to the issues facing education in the region as a whole and guides to available online datasets, this Handbook will be an essential reference for researchers, scholars, international agencies and policy-makers at all levels.
Education in South-East Asia is a comprehensive critical reference guide to education in South East Asia. With chapters written by an international team of leading regional education experts, the book explores the education systems of the ten member states of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the state of Timor-Leste. The diverse range and forms of culture, religion and politics embedded in the region are exhibited in the distinctive education systems that inter-relate in one of the most integrated regions in the world. Including a comparative introduction to the issues facing education in the region as a whole and guides to available online datasets, this Handbook will be an essential reference for researchers, scholars, international agencies and policy-makers at all levels.