Paul Suparno, Yogyakarta | Sat, 05/29/2010 11:28 AM | Opinion A | A | A | The Legal Board of Education (BHP) law that would manage and give legal foundation to several Indonesian public universities has been scrapped by the Constitutional Court. The problem is, what do we do now, especially for the public and private universities in Indonesia? Several universities including Gajah Mada, University of Indonesia, the Bandung Institute of Technology and Erlangga are supposed to be governed under the BHP. Since the BHP has been canceled, the universities should be provided another legal foundation. If they do not have a new foundation, they will have functional difficulties, especially if they want to make agreements with foreign institutions. Whatever the name of the legal foundation and its regulations, it should be given the following characteristics. First, the legal foundation should give the universities autonomy to run their programs with creativity and allow them to progress. By becoming more independent, they will be able to run their programs more freely and can develop their universities according to their vision and mission. Left to their own devices, several universities have actually become better and better, rising in the world’s ranked tertiary institutions. This is because they have been allowed to develop their university freely, without too much influence from the bureaucracy of the education department. Second, according to the people, the foundations should not run their universities as businesses, and avoid commercialism. Students will not benefit from any commercial interests the universities pursue. For instance, poor students would not be apply to the universities because they would not be able to pay the high tuition fees. The poor but clever students should receive the same opportunities to learn at the higher education level. A university that is run like a business will tend to only accept rich students that are able to pay higher fees. If public universities go down this path, there will be massive discrimination among Indonesian students. Third, the new legal foundation should be based on the knowledge that students are the subject of the universities. They are not objects to be oppressed by the institution, they have to be allowed to talk and participate in deciding institutional regulations. Students have to be allowed to delegate a member of the legal foundation so that they are able to voice their opinions and needs. In the democratic era, the university should be open to the students’ opinions. Fourth, the board does not override the government’s responsibility, especially in improving the education system. The government has the responsibility of providing education for the people. If more and more public universities are improved, more students will become more competent at the public institutions. By doing so, there will be equality in the higher education. The problem now is only several public universities are very good, so only several students are able to study there, while other students have no opportunity at all. Fifth, because public universities vary in quality and qualification, their legal framework should also vary. By doing so, public universities would be free to choose the legal foundation appropriate with their situation. Most importantly, the public legal structure must not be imposed on private universities. Even though the BHP law has been scrapped by the Constitutional Court, private universities and their foundations should not stand by and do nothing. Despite the fact private universities have their own boards and foundations leaving them free to manage their institutions according to their vision and mission; there are still many problems that should be solved. The first problem is about the harmony and communication between the foundation and the president of the university. We often hear of conflicts at this level, many of which go unresolved. The effect that this discord has on the schools’ primary function of teaching and learning could not possibly be conducive. The only ones that suffer from these situations are the students, either financially or intellectually. The foundation and the president should be aware that they work together for the same education. They have the same job to improve their university and help students achieve their best. To help guarantee this, university presidents should attend all foundation meetings. After all, it is they who are meant to be best in tune with the running of the university. How can foundations expect to run their universities, if they don’t fully understand the situation of the university they are trying to run. The second problem is about finding donations for the university. Maintaining a university costs a lot of money. Students’ fees alone are not enough to develop and accelerate the institution, especially if they accommodate research and technology departments that require more equipment and laboratories. Foundations should appeal for income from outside the student body. Together with the president, they have to improve collaboration with industries and foreign countries that care for education. By doing so, students will not be burdened with additional costs and poor students will see a reduction in their tuition fees. The member of the foundation should also learn about higher education problems, and know how to guide the university. So, the foundation does really guide the university, and work together with the president in improving the quality of the university. The writer is a lecturer of Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta.