20 November 2017 Register to receive our free newsletter by email each week
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INDONESIA: Level university entrance playing field

Confusion over higher education entrance requirements continues across Indonesia. In response, the Ministry of National Education plans to review this year's arrangements for conducting entrance examinations.

The ministry is particularly keen to have state universities operating a transparent system which is at the same time 'friendly'. The review, due to be completed next year, is to address admissions policies at 84 state universities and technical institutes.

Deputy Minister Fasli Jalal, former Director-General of Higher Education at the ministry and an energetic advocate of reform in that sector, said: "People are getting confused by the whole process."

The confusion derives, Jalal said, from lack of transparency about the number of places available at the various universities and how many were allocated for certain tests. He said the ministry was annually inundated with public complaints from parents and students regarding the vast range of entrance tests and admissions procedures across the country.

Although under current legislation the ministry had no legal power to intervene in the process, it would still through the review pursue transparency, Jalal said.

The country's leading institution, the University of Indonesia, has 11 different avenues of admission while Brawijaya University in Malang, East Java, has seven and the Bogor Institute of Agriculture has three - but each has three branches.

"So you can see, it is difficult for people to see how this works," he said.

Efforts at standardising university entrance procedures have gone on for several years. A number of universities have simply gone their own ways, slashing their national selection quotas in favour of their own methods.

Not surprisingly, given the level of corruption in Indonesia's public life, entrance tests and procedures have attracted the attention of the energetic NGO Indonesia Corruption Watch. The organisation has accused some universities of using the entrance tests to leverage more money from potential students.

"It is common knowledge that special entrance procedures are set up by the universities to generate more money," said Ade Irawan, a spokesperson for the corruption watch group. "Thus, they are very discriminatory in favour of the rich."

Some universities deny this is the case. Tevie Rahmawati, a spokeswoman for UI, rejected allegations to this effect, claiming a record of consistent transparency. Further, Rahmawati says all the necessary information that potential students require is freely available on the UI web site.

"We have only six entrance procedures - students are not charged differently according to whether they are accepted from the national selection system or other UI procedures."

Meanwhile, the corruption watch group claims the ministry has been active in commercialising the education sector and this has driven universities to charge students more in the search for new revenue sources.
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