Opinion

High time for internationalization
of Indonesian higher learning

Globally, the number of internationally mobile students is increasing rapidly, reflecting the expansion of enrolment in higher education, which has grown by 78 percent in a decade.

According to UNESCO data, at least 3.6 million students in 2010 were enrolled in higher education abroad, up from 2 million in 2000.

Asia is the top regional source for international students, constituting 43 percent of international students studying in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.

It also provides four of the five top source countries. Annually, China, including Hong Kong, accounts for 10 percent (or 147,000) of all international students in the OECD area. It is followed by second-ranked South Korea (5 percent or 70,500), then India (4 percent or 61,000) and fifth-ranked Japan (3.8 percent or 55,000).

Regions that host the largest number of internationally mobile students are North America and Western Europe (58 percent); East Asia and the Pacific (21 percent); and Central and Eastern Europe (9 percent).

For Asian international students, the US (receiving 44.3 percent of the students) appears the most popular among OECD countries, followed by Australia (12.5 percent) and the UK (11.3 percent). The most popular disciplines are business, IT, engineering and science as well as technology-related studies. Approximately two-thirds study at the undergraduate level, the remainder at postgraduate.

Indonesian students make up about 1 percent of global internationally mobile students. Annually 30,000 students travel abroad and this is about 0.8 percent of the total tertiary-level students in Indonesia. In comparison, the corresponding numbers are about 46,000 and 6.1 percent respectively for Malaysia, 24,000 and 0.9 percent respectively for Thailand and 28,000 and 1.9 percent respectively for Vietnam. The top five destinations for Indonesian students are Australia (10,500), US (7,500), Malaysia (4,500), Germany (1,700) and Japan (1,500).

The total number of international students studying in Indonesia is about 3,000 students. This means an inbound mobility rate of 0.1 percent. The corresponding figures are about 24,400 and 3.3 percent respectively for Malaysia, 11,000 and 0.5 percent respectively for Thailand and 3,200 and 0.2 percent, respectively for Vietnam.

These low figures for Indonesia invite all of us to work harder for an increased internationalization of higher education in Indonesia. One needs to pay more attention to the content and aims of internationalization. Internationalization within higher education has many dimensions. It includes the type of courses/programs offered, the teaching material, curriculum content, the diversity among students and staff in addition to the learning environment and context. But internationalization is also a state of mind.

The aim of the internationalization of higher learning must be toward supporting various processes of integrating an international-intercultural dimension into teaching and learning, research and innovation and service functions of the universities.

This would result in the increase in flow of ideas, attitudes, values, technology, economy and people across borders — all necessary responses to the impact of globalization. In other words, internationalization of higher education, research and innovation is considered as an agent of globalization, with a corresponding impact on labor markets, knowledge-based economics, life-long learning, mobility of faculty and students and the mobility of knowledge and innovations.

Some major issues affecting the future development of internationalized higher education, research and innovation are: impact of globalization on the economy and society; emergence of new and mostly private providers of higher education and growing emphasis on competitiveness; emergence of international alliances and networks in higher education, research and innovation, between universities and between universities and companies; internationalization of innovation; perspectives of different sectors in the society directly or indirectly related to higher education, research and innovation; and flexibility of regulatory framework as well as openness to attracting talented foreign students and staff.

Some important activities to be considered are: student mobility and student exchange programs, including work-internships abroad; recruitment of internationally mobile students and faculty/staff mobility programs, both for teaching and research; joint and double-degree programs between universities; internationalization of curriculum, including curriculum development programs; language and culture training; international research projects; and joint research centers, universities and stakeholders.

Countries in the Asian region are coming up with innovative ways to manage and regulate international education, research and innovation. Singapore and Hong Kong are seeking to become leading education, research and innovation hubs, and are selectively encouraging foreign providers to attract international students and staff. Malaysia is promoting itself as an education hub. India is establishing transnational education operations in Sri Lanka and China.

Can Indonesia become a research, development and innovation hub in Southeast Asia?

It can but not without serious changes to the way higher learning is organized, including the associated regulatory framework.

To achieve an innovation-driven knowledge society in Indonesia, we must face up to a hard truth: our universities and the way the government looks at internationalization of higher learning needs to change, and they need to change now.

An interesting phenomenon that continues to seriously limit the internationalization of higher education, research and innovation in Indonesia, are the restrictions originating from the time of Soeharto, such as the absence of student visas for foreigners and difficulties in appointing foreign academic staff within the Indonesian university system. The Indonesian government needs to seriously look at how it manages and regulates the internationalization of the universities.

In the Gulf states, hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to open branches of top US and European universities, such as Cornell in Qatar and the Sorbonne in Abu Dhabi. A few years back, the new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology opened in Saudi Arabia with a US$10 billion endowment fund that exceeds that of all but five American universities. In China, the nine universities known as “The C9” receive supplemental government funding to enhance their global competitiveness and become China’s “Ivy League”.

In India, the Education Ministry has announced its intention to build 14 new comprehensive universities of “world-class” stature and the government also recently approved a bill to allow foreign education providers to set up campuses and offer degrees.

By 2020, Indonesia will have one of largest college-going population in the world. This chunk of the population requires internationalized higher education, as they will shoulder Indonesia’s economic development journey.

The time for internationalization of higher education, research and innovation in Indonesia is now. Internationalization of higher learning will result in increased quality and efficiency of the universities and their outcomes, put Indonesia in the global map of the higher education, research and innovation, stimulate and catalyze the socioeconomic growth and promote Indonesia in all aspects globally.

The writer is a professor at i3L, Indonesia International Institute for Life Sciences in Jakarta.

Paper Edition | Page: 7

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