The aspiration for world-class university status
Ask the managers of any university in Indonesia about their vision for their institution and an almost automatic response would be ‘to become a world-class university’. This sentiment is shared by the Indonesian government and the public, who seem to believe that it is high time for the country to have its own world-class universities. What that aspiration entails, however, does not seem to be well understood.
While there have been several attempts to define what a world-class university is (see, for example, Niland 2000; Altbach 2004), this chapter will refer to the framework put forward by Salmi (2009) because of its simplicity and its general acceptance by international scholars. He made the case that:
Indonesia's 3,600 tertiary education institutions (TEIs) vary considerably in size, structure and quality. The 140 or so public institutions cater for about a third of the country's entire tertiary education student body. Of the 3,400 or more private institutions, most located in Java, only a few can be considered on a par with the top public institutions. None of Indonesia's TEIs, however, have a high international standing. The country's leading university, the University of Indonesia, ranked only 201st in the 2009 Times Higher Education World University Rankings. On the research front, the Scopus database of peer-reviewed literature records only 51 Indonesian universities producing scientific publications. The top 15 universities on that list produce more than 85 per cent of Indonesia's total scientific publications.
Indonesian TEIs face severe resource constraints. Although a group of seven elite universities have been given greater autonomy to raise their own funds and manage their own affairs over the past decade, the average per student spending of these flagship research universities is just one-sixth that of, for example, the Australian National University in Canberra. Indonesia's small and regional TEIs are even less well resourced. This situation prevents these institutions from recruiting the most talented academics and from conducting internationally recognized research.
It is obvious that the overwhelming majority of Indonesia's TEIs are not, and are unlikely ever to become, world-class universities. This should not be a problem in and of itself. The literature on tertiary education development emphasizes the need for a diversified system that can accommodate the varied learning and training needs of the population (Salmi 2009).