Friday, January 16, 2009

Indonesia's Minister of Education Discusses New Bill to Turn State Universities into Nonprofit Institutions

The Jakarta Globe National reports that Indonesia's new education autonomy bill, passed by the House of Representatives last month, is designed to improve quality and equity in the Indonesian university system and to help students gain more opportunities for study.

According to Dr. Bambang Sudibyo, Indonesia’s Minister of National Education, under the bill, the state universities will become nonprofit institutions and the government will aid in covering all operational funds not met by universities. Students at many schools are expected to see their enrollment fees decrease, as the bill stipulates that universities will be allowed to obtain a maximum of one-third of their operational funds from students — less than many institutions currently charge. Dr. Sudibyo said the bill will also pave the way for more low-income students to obtain scholarships to study at universities because the bill requires state universities to allot 20% of their seats to qualified students coming from poor families.

Although the bill has yet to become law, the government has almost completed its appraisal of the financial needs of the 89 state-run universities. The final draft will include needs per university, location and year, with numbers to be updated annually to reflect the economic situation. Once the bill becomes law, state educational institutions will have three to four years to comply with the new measures, while private institutions will have six.

Dr. Sudibyo said that ideally the government will increase its education budget, but that the ministry’s current allotment is enough to cover all funding specified in the bill. He confirmed the concerns of some private education institutions that the new system will increase competition, but said that the government cannot extend the same budget support to private institutions. Dr. Sudibyo said that if private universities want to remain operational, they will need to demonstrate their qualifications. Currently, many of Indonesia’s 2,800 private institutions lack accreditation and oversight measures, leading to accusations that they bilk unknowing students.

The bill stipulates that all universities must demonstrate good management and high degrees of transparency by forming bodies for audits, academic controls and education oversight. Dr. Sudibyo said private institutions stand to gain from one measure in the bill which calls for schools to acknowledge capacity limitations for the first time and turn away students if need be. In the absence of such limits, over enrollment has long been a feature of many state institutions.


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