Interview: Mohammad Nasih
How will state universities in Indonesia have more freedom in spending their budget?
MOHAMMAD NASIH: The government of Indonesia has allocated around Rp39trn ($2.9bn) for higher education from its national budget. This budget has been allocated for various purposes, including scholarships, operational budgets for universities, community academies, vocational studies, as well as other expenses such as salaries.
Since 2016 there have been more than 10 state universities, such as Universitas Airlangga, that have received status as autonomous universities. The government trusts these universities to manage their budgets, but also to find new sources of funding. This allows state universities to allocate their budget according to their strategic needs. If this can be used to get more funding for development purposes, such as research, scholarship and teaching enhancement, we believe that this will greatly improve the quality of our resources, staff, students and society as a whole. Universities will also be able to expand their exposure to internationalisation. State universities will be more flexible and can capitalise on international cooperation to help reach the government’s target to have Indonesian universities ranked in the top-500 universities in the world. This will certainly change the landscape of the higher education sector as it does not only cover Indonesia as an area of development, but also makes sure that our universities will be more competitive on a global level.
How do you assess the gap between the skills of graduates and the needs of the wider economy?
NASIH: Universities in Indonesia have a responsibility and obligation to provide high-quality education to students. By means of a process involving the government and all professional stakeholders, we are able to measure whether the curriculum matches the needs of the market. The process of curriculum evaluation is conducted regularly to identify the needs of the major users of university graduates. This evaluation has resulted in a national research and development roadmap. This agenda will drive the programmes of many state universities in the coming years. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics research, for example, have become priorities, creating more economic value and supporting industries.
Overall, we think that the national evaluation process demonstrates that the sector is on the right track. Data shows that in 2015-16 the unemployment rate for job seekers with a higher education was 11.2%. This can be used as a proxy to show the job market absorbed over 85% of graduates, which means that the skills needed by the market are covered by universities. For Universitas Airlangga, the average time it took for graduates to get a job was less than three months, with over 80% of the graduates absorbed by the market.
To what extent do universities in East Java serve the needs of the local economy?
NASIH: While support from the East Java Government is in place, it might need to be intensified, especially in terms of coordinating the collective efforts of local universities and companies. Universitas Airlangga, as one of the oldest and largest universities in Indonesia, recognises its responsibility to the East Java community, and wants to express this in concrete deeds. Universitas Airlangga aims to prepare its students to not only become managers, researchers in academia or professionals; the university also tries to develop education and study programmes that foster entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial skills. The university aims to not only create job seekers, but more importantly, job makers. If we are successful in this plan, we would be able to contribute more effectively to the wider economy.
We believe that universities, in general, have responsibilities to Indonesia. Working together with government and industries, universities need to focus their efforts to reach remote areas of the country through both research and community outreach programmes.
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