‘Our Dream Is to Become a World-Class University’

The future of universities is considered the future of nations. But in Indonesia most people can’t afford the cost of higher education. In Bali, that’s changing. Professor I Made Bakta, 62, has been rector of the island’s Udayana University for five years. He spoke with Carla Albertí de la Rosa about what the renowned university is doing to help the development of this country, and its people.

Q : The percentage of the total population of Indonesians that attend higher education is less than 17 percent. What factors are making this percentage so low?

A : This is because of the economic situation and the policy in education in universities. The cost of higher education is rather high so the lower economic status of the population cannot afford it. We know that most Indonesian people are from a lower or middle economic status, so it’s very hard for them to afford the cost of higher education.

Q : Education Minister Muhammad Nuh has said a new draft law that gives greater autonomy for universities in managing their financial resources is in line with requests from heads of universities. Do you believe this autonomy will lead to the commercialisation of Indonesia’s higher-education sector and how will it influence the management of your university?

A: It’s necessary for higher education. With autonomy we can manage our university more efficiently. I believe this will not lead to the commercialization of our higher education. University’s management will now have the obligation to give scholarships. The government and the university will give scholarships to a minimum of 30 percent of the students because of this law.
It will have a strong influence in our management. We aim to build a non-profit corporation to get money from collaborators, especially for research.

Q: Udayana University is looking to enrol 4,000 more students. Currently how many students are enrolled and how are they scattered?

A: We have 20,000 students. Of these, 2,000 are graduate and 18,000 undergraduate students. We want to work with the ratio of graduate versus undergraduate students. We want to have more graduate students in five years; we aim for a 25-percent increase.

Q: There are 12 faculties at your university and one graduate school. What are the most popular programmes?

A: The most popular is medicine. Students from high school want to get into the medicine faculty but the exam to enter is hard. We have 200 new students every year for the faculty of medicine.
Economics and Law have the most students. For Economics and Law the necessity of facilities are lower than in medicine, so we have more spaces available.

Q: Udayana’s vision is “to be a leading university whose graduates reflect a high potential, the best amongst their generation, moved further towards self-reliance and continuing to be fully engaged with the local indigenous knowledge and practices.” What are you doing to achieve this?

A: Our dream is to become a world-class university. We have a plan to get there step by step. In 2017 we want to be among the top 10 universities in Indonesia. After 2020 we want to be well recognized in Asia. Our plan to do this is internal consolidation, especially for academic quality. We will improve academic quality as we push our staff to do masters and PhD programmes. We want the best formation for them.
Also, we want to improve the quality of our research, which is so important for universities. Research is now five percent of the total budget but we would like to increase it to 10 percent in five years.

Q: To what extent do you see Udayana University as an engine for the development of the country?

A: Higher education is very important for the development of our nation. Most of our higher education is in Java, in places like Jakarta and Yogyakarta, but in remote areas there is no quality higher education.
I think the government has to push to achieve a better distribution of higher education. It should also support Udayana University so we will have a very important role in the development of our nation.
At Udayana we have culture at the core of our academic programmes, so if we can extend our knowledge we will be a great contributor for the development of the nation.
I hope the government will adopt a two-way strategy. In one way improving the quality of higher education but also improving the distribution of good-quality high education into remote areas.

Q: How much is the yearly cost for Indonesians enrolled full-time and how much do foreign students pay?

A: For domestic students, medicine is the most expensive. They pay Rp30 million (US$3,320) in tuition fees and an additional fee of Rp6 million annually.
Foreign students pay the same tuition fees plus $3,000 annually.
The lowest is agriculture: Rp1.5 million for tuition fees plus another Tp1.5 million in fees annually.

Q: Since 2000 the university has welcomed international students because, as you state in your website, you believe that the creation of a multicultural learning environment is essential to achieving your goals. What percentage of foreign students do you have and what are the predominant nationalities?

A: Foreign students represent one percent of our total students. Most are from Malaysia but we also have 150 German students per semester studying Economics.
We also have 120 students from China studying Bahasa Indonesia and culture for two semesters. Eighty students come from Norway every year as well as 20 students from Timor Leste, mainly for agriculture.

Q: What services do you provide for foreign students and how do they overcome the language barrier?

A: We have just set up an international office to support students with their visas and also to help them settle down. We don’t have international dormitories for our students yet, but since last year we have been building one that will be open in three years and will have 100 rooms.
We have special classes in English for foreign students. In medical school we have an English class also for locals.

Q: Udayana collaborates with other foreign universities but it seems to have more partnerships with Japanese universities. What kind of exchange programmes does Udayana offer and how much importance do you place on international cooperation?

A: I think international networking is very important for the development of the university. Before, we used to have a good relationship with Australian universities but we shifted to Japan. This was mainly because of the support of the Japanese government with their universities, so they can have a good collaboration with ours.
Now we have a double degree tourism programme with the Sorbonne University in France. We also have a double degree programme with Yamaguchi University in Japan for remote sensing. They do half the degree here and half there.

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