Revolutionizing Indonesian University

President Jokowi was disappointed by the fact that only 3 Indonesian universities are able to penetrate into big 500 based on QS world university ranking, one of the most leading university evaluators in the world. President’s call on this problem has to be taken seriously by the stakeholders. Higher education institutions’ quality is very important for national economic strategy. Universities are the powerhouse to produce well-versed and skillful talents, experts and leaders for many important sectors to boost national economy. If the quality of the powerhouse is under question, the output will be the same and the so-called demographic bonusses will come in no way.

We are left behind by many countries whose universities are younger than our top national universities. Let’s say Nanyang Technology University (NTU) in Singapore is ranked 11th globally although it was established in 1991. Institut Teknologi Bandung, Universitas Indonesia and Universitas Gajah Mada were established in the 50s and they are only able to rank in between 290-400 globally.

What is wrong with our universities? Parameters used by QS such as teaching, research and employee reputation, faculty to student ratio, citations per faculty, international faculty ratio and international student ratio can actually give hints to the condition of our higher education institution. Of course, we cannot solely base our evaluation on QS world ranking, another prominent global performance tables presented by The Higher Education (THE) world university rankings also has its own indicators such as teaching, research, citations, international outlook and industry income. Sadly speaking, none of Indonesian universities are in top 500 based on THE.

QS and THE evaluate teaching and research qualities of faculty members. Therefore, Indonesian government and universities need to radically change the faculty recruitment system and standard. The hired faculties must possess at least a doctoral degree and have excellent skills in teaching and also research proven from their past experiences. Their resume and profile must be carefully scrutinized. They must be tested to teach in front of the students during the recruitment. The citations number is also very important and it is again related to the faculty quality in research. If they can produce impactful publications rooted from their brilliant research, the number of citations per faculties and their reputations can be boosted rapidly that will help the university ranking.

Nowadays, a lot of top universities in Indonesia still hire master graduates. They do not have adequate experience in teaching and research thus they are not ready to push the teaching and research in universities to the level where top universities are supposed to have. In countries like US, Japan, European countries, South Korea and China, they even post stricter standard where the applicants must have a postdoctoral experience that will further enrich their research experiences. The competitiveness is crazy where the promising applicants are expected to have excellent lists of publications in top journals, patents as well as balanced teaching experiences. It is clear that the recruitment system and standard play important roles in defining the teaching and research quality.

Are we really in a shortcoming of excellent doctoral graduates? I do not think so, a lot of Indonesian talents with a doctoral degree tend to work abroad in developed countries because of several reasons that will be discussed below.

The academic career system for faculty also can affect the performance of the faculty members in teaching and doing research. In Indonesia, once an applicant is accepted as faculty members at the lowest academic ranks position, they already get a life-time employment. It is true that to get promoted let’s say from lector to head of lector, they have to meet the minimum points by accumulating their contribution in academia such as teaching hours, publications, outreach, social work, etc. However, a combination of lacking research funding, low salary, and the absence of strong punishment make some faculties prefer to work fully spending their time in an outsourcing-based project asked by companies where faculties will get more money quickly rather than spending the time and effort to get promoted. This activity has several drawbacks; they will be absent from teaching and also publishing research paper since the projects with the company are usually hard to publish due to several issues like confidentiality and often possessing no novelties.

There is nothing wrong working in a project with a company as long as the faculty still can meet the expected contribution for academia. But, why does a university need to keep a faculty employment who does not perform for academia? Therefore, a system that can fairly address this rewards and punishment is needed so that all faculties in universities will mainly contribute to the improvement of academia.

We need to ensure a promising starting salary thus they do not need to worry about their lives and they can focus on academia duties. The tenure-track system is an option to solve the problem. The system is widely used by US and Canada universities. In this system, faculties will enter from an assistant professor position where they will not have had a permanent position in the university yet. They will be granted a tenure and promoted to be associate professor or be dismissed from the position after an evaluation in year 5 or 6. For the very beginning of these years, they need to fulfil a high standard of publications, amount of grant money they can obtain, number of doctoral and master students they supervise to graduation as well as teaching and service to the university and public in order to get the tenure. After they pass the evaluation, they are secured but they still need to fulfil minimum duties like teaching and publications in order to maintain the position. Several European countries, China and South Korea start to apply this system where they have several initial years of evaluation before obtaining permanent position in the university.

The system will also attract more foreign excellent applicants to apply. There will be no unfair condition between an Indonesian and a foreign citizen applicant thus a competitive environment will be created in Indonesian Universities that will improve their qualities because all faculties will do their best work in order to get hired and promoted to a permanent position. Moreover, the number of foreign faculties can be increased to improve the university ranking. With an improvement in the university quality in terms of faculties, teaching and research, it will attract more international students to come to diversify the environment which will enrich the point of views to tackle the scientific problems as well as once again helping the university to improve their ranking.


  1. Anonymous11:27 am

    "We need to ensure a promising starting salary thus they do not need to worry about their lives and they can focus on academia duties", for the current situation, increasing salary would not be linear to increasing their performance. I think the problem is the vast majority of lecture/faculty members are not the right man in the right place. other than that, APBN is deficit in status, raising such issue without a very clear consensus and vision on the national level is just a classic idea.


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