Interview: Muhammad Anis

What trends have you observed in Indonesia’s higher education sector in the past year?

MUHAMMAD ANIS: Higher education has experienced many changes as a result of globalisation and new technologies. The development of new technologies – particularly those leading the Fourth Industrial Revolution, such as super-computers, robots, artificial intelligence and genetic modification – is rapidly altering the way people live. In addition to this, there are four fundamental forces that will impact higher education in the next decade: industrialisation and urbanisation in emerging economies; an ageing world; disruptive technology; and greater global interconnection. For example, the emergence of open online courses, new styles of teaching and learning, and mounting financial and sustainability pressures are impacting the education landscape. Therefore, higher education leaders have to create new strategies to tackle these developing challenges and opportunities. We have to foster a culture of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. We should focus on developing multidisciplinary online courses, particularly in the area of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Furthermore, universities have to become smart campuses in order to reduce the costs associated with maintaining a conventional campus.

How can opening up the sector to foreign investment offer new opportunities?

ANIS: The Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education issued Decree No. 53 of 2018 to open Indonesia’s doors to foreign universities looking to operate in the country. There are pros and cons to this policy. On one hand, allowing foreign institutions to operate in Indonesia will not only boost local higher education capacity, but could also attract foreign students to come and study in Indonesia. On the other hand, local public and private institutions may struggle to compete with foreign providers and the end result could be a hallowing out of the domestic system. There are factors which will drive the existence of universities in the future, namely, emerging technologies, a changing job market in the face of automation and artificial intelligence, and finance or budgeting. Universities have to adjust their ecosystem to handle these changes and build a strong and strategic network to facilitate research collaboration with foreign institutions.

In what ways can higher education better contribute to Indonesia’s overall competitiveness?

ANIS: A knowledge economy is a driving force for a triple helix, university-industry-government collaboration, creating synergy between technologies, industries and regions. For example, industry could share knowledge with universities, while groups of firms can collaborate with the government and universities to achieve common long-term strategic goals. The Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education provides some financial support to establish a teaching factory to help realise this concept. The key to success will be convergence among those parties in the triple helix.

What are the prospects for strengthening STEM education, and how can e-learning initiatives help?

ANIS: There are many ways to promote STEM education in Indonesia. E-learning can be used to engage students, as well as providing benefits for teachers by offering high-quality, cost-effective training. E-learning tools are essential for providing students with up-to-date information and enhanced curricula, as well as delivering well-rounded lessons. These initiatives can also be used to offer interactive, hands-on experiences to students for concepts and processes that were previously taught in an abstract way in a traditional classroom setting. Furthermore, it is clear that one of the greatest advantages of e-learning is that students can study anywhere across Indonesia. However, improved connectivity is required to ensure that students have access to this ground-breaking technology even in remote regions.