INDONESIA: Cleaning up higher education

Indonesia's National Board for Higher Education Accreditation has announced its determination to clean up a sector riddled with bad practices. The board has set 2012 as its target for ridding universities of unaccredited undergraduate courses.

The plan is to set stricter criteria especially for the private sector. Indonesia currently has more than 2,000 private universities, many of which have been issuing degrees outside the purview of the accreditation board.

Adi Sulistyono, an assessor and Deputy Rector of the March 11 University in the royal city of Solo in Central Java, told the media: "The new assessment model should be considered a threat to unprofessional universities."

Sulistyono went on to stress that such institutions were "only interested in turning a profit by producing as many graduates as possible, irrespective of quality".

The board will set an "accreditation validity period" of five years for each undergraduate
programme. A team of around 1,000 assessors will undertake the task and will target all types and levels of study programme.

According to Sulistiyono, accreditation standards will cover the learning system, the academic atmosphere, the quality assurance system, graduation standards, publications as well as theses work. Moreover, graduates will be monitored for how long they take to find employment after graduation. This last prescription reflects the widespread concern at high graduate unemployment figures across Indonesia.

Research work by lecturers will also come under the microscope, given a concern that too few undertake it. The belief in academic circles is that many university lecturers actually undertake no research at all while many do not engage students in the endeavour.

Tuition fees, widely thought to be excessive in the private university sector, will also be scrutinised. As Sulistiyono said: "The amount students pay does not guarantee a top-quality
education," an assertion that not many in Indonesia would dispute.

The accreditation board will require each university to create and sustain an up-to-date database on all the areas just mentioned.

A spokesman for one of the country's top institutions, Gajah Madah University in Jogjakarta, acknowledged the scheme would require hard work but that it would be beneficial in the drive to raise university standards nationwide.