Education

University aims to create
new middle class

Jakarta's Paramadina University, in cooperation with corporate partners, is offering full scholarships to talented students as it bids to "strengthen society's middle class", says rector Anies Baswedan.

Anies told The Jakarta Post recently that with this "clear vision" in mind, the university had come up with a breakthrough program to draw outstanding students from all over the country.

"A university should serve as the place where people from all walks of life get the education they need to allow them to rise to a higher social class," he said.

Since 2008, the university has been handing out full scholarships under it's Paramadina Fellowship Program (PF) to selected students.

The money - Rp 65 million (US$6,500) for students from Jakarta and Rp 100 million for those from outside the capital - is contributed by 25 corporations and individuals, including state-owned lender Bank Negara Indonesia, tobacco giant PT Djarum, The Jakarta Post and entrepreneur Arifin Panigoro.

"Providing ways for these students to get a quality education will in turn lead them to thrive in life," Anies said.

"The idea is to create a new middle class from those of a lower social class."

Deputy rector Wijayanto said to be accepted for a scholarship, candidates were required to possess an excellent academic record, be talented and have a penchant for organizational activities.

"Our campus has become livelier, students are now more active," he said.

"They're bright and they have become leaders in their classes."

In last year's PF program, Paramadina took in 69 of 1,500 applicants. In 2009, that figure is 72 of 1,800 applicants.

The university is looking to accept 100 applicants for the 2010 academic year.

Wijayanto said it was initially difficult trying to convince corporate partners to invest in the program.

"But we came to them with a clear business plan and explained that in future they would need supplies of graduates with sharp minds and high leadership skills, and that did it," he said.

The sponsorship program then snowballed, he added, with more and more corporations and individuals wanting to take part in it.

"Indonesia has a strong philanthropic character; our people are very generous," Wijayanto said.

He added that under the PF program, donors paid the money up front, allowing the university to invest around 80 percent of it.

"For every Rp 100 million, the university can make Rp 25 million after a four-year investment," he said.

"That money then goes into our endowment fund."

Anies said the program, the first of its kind in the country, would no longer need sponsors after eight to 10 years.

"We are very open to other universities, private or public, coming to us to learn about this program and copy it," he said.

He pointed out older universities had their own source of as-yet untapped funding.

"For years on end, these universities churn out graduates who've become successful thanks to their education; it's time they pay back and donate some money for their juniors' education," Anies said.

Most importantly, he went on, universities had to have their own endowment funds to finance scholarships.

Wijayanto said he hoped with the PF program, Paramadina could produce quality graduates who could compete in the global environment.

"Today is a very defining moment for this university," he said. (adh)

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