Making Indonesia a study destination

Said Irandoust and Yennah Mulia, Jakarta | Opinion | Sat, February 08 2014, 11:17 AM

The world is increasingly becoming a global village. In addition to trade in goods and services, human resources, relationships, networking and ideas are flowing more freely around the globe. International education is a key catalyst that both contributes to and benefits from this trend.
Major drivers of the demand for overseas education is a shortage of high-quality study programs domestically, the comparative advantage and also the pressure to have an overseas qualification and status or “label” when competing for attractive jobs. Another key to this growth in internationalization is the competition amongst universities for the most talented students and research staff. Major research institutions are like top sport clubs, operating internationally, judged by international comparisons and competing to recruit the best individuals from around the globe.

International students contribute immensely to the quality of higher education of the host country. By studying with students from diverse backgrounds, domestic students can not only learn about other cultures and languages, but also about tolerance and multicultural teamwork as well as the networking. These lessons are just as important as any learned in class and invaluable in the global job market. International students also bring in annual value and direct economic benefits to the economy of the host country.

International students also bring diverse skills and an international dimension to the labor force of the host country which has proven to increase productivity. Another benefit of hosting international students is the cost-effective export of the culture of host country to the countries from where international students originate.

International education is also a strategic investment in global relationships and development of relations with future business leaders in expanding global economies from where international students can be recruited.

The culture of the international student market has changed with western universities no longer able to depend on their pivotal positions. Now this multibillion dollar business is more like international air travels, with the trade routes in every direction. Countries such as Malaysia and the Gulf States are becoming a serious destination for many international students from South Asia, Middle East, Africa and beyond.

The expanding Indonesian economy should also draw international students to Indonesia. Bringing more international students into the republic could be a part of Indonesia’s drive to internationalize its higher education sector and become a “knowledge power” in ASEAN and beyond. This dream can be realized with long-term strategies from the side of the government and the higher education sector.

Indonesia with one of world’s largest cultural- and biodiversity, and growing economy, is now focusing on its foreign direct investments (FDI). Internationalized higher education and research will further increase the attractiveness for various FDI.

For all these to become a reality, we have the following recommendations the government needs consistent and supportive policies and actions to support internationalization of the higher education sector.

Further, we need to create a globally-oriented education system by developing, both at government level and also at universities, a new international education strategy including strategies for attracting international students. The universities should articulate their international vision as part of their wider mission.

Let’s put quality at the heart of Indonesia’s academic offerings and invest in Indonesia’s higher education quality towards international standards.

Further, we need incentives for universities to accredit their study programs taking into account internationally recognized qualifications.

Another step is to open up and allow for new world-class branch campuses of reputed foreign institutions in Indonesia, to catalyze internationalization of higher education here. Increasing active participation in international education development initiatives and encouraging and facilitating universities to establish cooperation with reputable institutions overseas.

Provide the competitive compensation for university staff to enable universities in recruiting and retaining top qualified people to run and operate universities with high international standard.

Strengthen Indonesian networks of influence by a more strategic approach to develop and maintain relationships with the Indonesia-educated diaspora and the Indonesian diaspora abroad. Recognition of dual citizenship for foreign nationals of Indonesian descent is a positive step in this regard.

Develop programs for better integration of non-Indonesian students into all activities of the universities and include courses and activities in the curriculum of study programs to highlight the rich culture of Indonesia to all students

Target specific categories of international students who are likely to become the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs and decision makers from emerging economies.

Put in place new visa, immigration and work policies for international students and international university staff. Make it easier for international students and international university staff to live and work in Indonesia.

Encourage outward mobility by Indonesian staff members and students which will enhance the intercultural skills and international expertise of both staff members and students of Indonesian educational institutions.

Said Irandoust is Professor and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Indonesia International Institute for Life Sciences (i3L), Jakarta. Yennah Mulia is the CEO of i3L and IPMI International Business school, Jakarta