New initiative for Indonesian higher education toward world-class status

Report Post

By Prof Anas Miftah Fauzi
Vice Rector for Research and Collaboration
Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia

Indonesian higher education institutions

Indonesia covers a wide range of higher education institutions (HEIs) in terms of size and quality with the total number of 4,378, of which only 8.5% are public and 11 are HEIs with autonomous status (PTNbh). Recently, the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education (MRTHE) released clusters of HEIs according to the research performance indicators, namely research resources (30%), research management (15%), research output (50%), and revenue generating (5%). Out of the 4,264 Indonesian HEIs assessed, 1,447 were in the clusters, and only 25 HEIs in the Platinum clusters.

Table 1. Clusters of Indonesian higher education institutions


























M. Dimyati (2016). Strengthening research and capacity of Indonesian universities and research institutes through international research collaboration. Presented in AIC Research Summit.

Since 2015, the Ministry of Research Technology and Higher Education (MRTHE) has released annual results of HEI clusters according to their achievement on publication, national accreditation, human resources, and student competitions. The first tier of HEI clusters (see Table 1) are facilitated for quality and reputation improvement toward world-class status.

The range in terms of quality of Indonesian HEIs can also be according to the university rankings, such as QS, THE, ARWU and Webometric. None of Indonesian HEIs are in the list of world-class universities according to ARWU, and only two HEIs – namely UI and ITB – are in list of THE World University Rankings 2016. However, as shown in Table 3 more Indonesian HEIs are in the list of QS Asian University Ranking (QS AUR) and QS World University Ranking (QS WUR) 2016.

Table 2. Indonesian HEI rankings in 2015 and 2016





Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB)


Gadjah Mada University (UGM) Gadjah Mada University (UGM)


Bogor Agricultural University (IPB) Universitas Indonesia (UI)


Universitas Indonesia (UI) Bogor Agricultural University (IPB)


Institute of Technology Sepuluh Nopember (ITS) University of Brawijaya (UB)


University of Brawijaya (UB) Institute of Technologi Sepuluh Nopember (ITS)


Padjdjaran University (UNPAD) Airlangga University (UNAIR)


Airlangga University (UNAIR) Hasanudin University (UNHAS)


Sebelas Maret University (UNS) Diponegoro University (UNDIP)


Diponegoro University (UNDIP) Padjdjaran University (UNPAD)


Hasanudin University (UNHAS) Andalas University (UNAND)


Sebelas Maret University (UNS)

Table 3. Position of Indonesian HEIs in QS University Ranking

Higher  Education  Institution (HEI)



2014 2015 2016
Public HEI
Universitas Indonesia (UI)





Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB)





Gadjah Mada University (UGM)





Airlangga University (UNAIR)





Padjadjaran University (UNPAD)




Bogor Agricultural University (IPB)





Diponegoro University (UNDIP)





University of Brawijaya (UB)





Udayana University (UNUD)



Institute of Technology Sepuluh  Nopember   (ITS)



Private HEI
Universitas Muhammadiyah Surakarta (UMS)



Bina Nusantara University (BINUS)


Higher education institutions worldwide have undergone extensive reform with the agenda of improving quality. Accreditation or certification as a procedure for formal recognition on the basis of external quality assessment to verify compliance on specific standards and criteria can be implemented to enhance quality of higher education institutions and study programmes. The annual report of MRTHE in 2015 listed some study programmes in Indonesian HEIs with international accreditations. The number of internationally accredited study programmes varied in each HEIs, in which currently UGM has the highest number (38), followed by UI (24), ITB (20), IPB (20), UB (12), ITS (10), UNAIR (6), UNDIP (5), UNPAD (2), and UNS (1). Moreover, in 2010, Directorate General for Higher Education (DGHE) initiated the implementation of QS Stars for rating Indonesian HEIs in order to boost the international reputation of universities.

New initiative

According to Indonesia’s Constitution, the country devotes 20% of government expenditure to education, in addition to the IDR 18 Trillion from Indonesian Endowment Fund for Education (LPDP). As a result, in 2015 LPDP provided scholarships for 3,616 students to pursue master’s degrees, MD specialist, and PhD degrees inside the country (32.4%) as well as overseas (67.6%).

Through the National Education Strategic Plan and the Higher Education Long Term Strategic Plan 2003–2010, the government of Indonesia encouraged and facilitated internationalisation of higher education in order to enhance the nation’s competitiveness by improving the quality of individual HEI and widening the international academic networks and cooperation. This policy was further strengthened through Strategic Plan of Directorate of Higher Education (DGHE) 2010–2014 and Strategic Plan of Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education (MRTHE) 2015– 2019. MRTHE contributes to the enhancement of the 5th and 12th pillars of competitiveness according to World Economic Forum (WEF), which are closely related with the quality of HEIs.

In the Strategic Plan of DGHE 2010–2014, achieving world-class university ranking was included in the targets. However, only two HIEs – namely Universitas Indonesia (UI) and Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) – were among the world’s top 500 in the QS WUR 2014.

The strategy for improving the quality of higher education in the National Mid Term Development Plan 2015–2019 includes: (1) increasing the quality of faculty and researchers through S2/S3 programme; (2) increasing research budget and implementing an incentive system to support innovative research; and (3) improving the national HEI accreditation support systems. The policy direction includes: (1) increasing educated and skilful human resources; (2) increasing the number of HEIs and R&D institutions; (3) increasing HE and R&D resources competitiveness, (4) increasing R&D productivity; and (5) increasing innovation (MRTHE Annual Report 2015).

The MRTHE policy is to maintain and strengthen the targeted HEIs in the list of world’s top 500 universities through special funding scheme – a performance-based budgeting scheme. In addition, the ministry set up a task force for facilitating and managing this initiative. Having reviewed several criteria and indicators of various university rankings including ARWU, THE, QS and Webometrics, it was decided that the focus of the universities – in terms of ranking indicators – should be on QS WUR. This is because rankings conducted by QS are more realistic and in line with the existing academic programme, stimulate the improvement of academic quality, and better promote the HEIs’ reputation through excellent teaching, research and dissemination of innovation. Five universities – namely UI, ITB, UGM, IPB, and UNAIR – have been targeted to be among the world’s top 500 universities by 2019. The other six universities (ITS, UNDIP, UNPAD, UB, UNHAS, UNS) are expected to be in the list of global top 500 by the year 2024.

To achieve the first of the above targets, i.e. having five HEIs among the world’s top 500 by 2019, The Directorate for Strengthening Institution of HE started to implement four programmes in 2015. The programmes include: (1) participation in the international workshop and conference held by QS, THE, and other rankers; (2) conducting socialisation and workshop on world university rankings at targeted HEIs; (3) collecting, evaluating and presenting data sets on the universities’ website, and (4) conducting monitoring and evaluation systems.

Furthermore, a special budget on top of the annual HEIs’ budget is provided by the ministry. Despite the budget restraints, this new initiative is expected to have a significant impact to promote academic atmosphere as well awareness on the university ranking indicators, of which the main two are reputation and achievement. Reputation building can be made through excellence in research output (publications, innovation, patents), teaching (faculty to student ratio, staff with PhD, and graduate employability), and internationalisation (faculty and student exchange as well as international faculty and students). However, academic achievement is not the only factor that leads a university to great reputation. Other factors to be considered are participation of Indonesian universities in international academic networks, introducing prominent scientists to the higher education community, encouraging innovation and possessing comprehensiveness faculty.

Challenges and solutions

Indonesia has similar problems with many other countries in providing better access to good education. In the Global Competition Index 2015, gross tertiary education enrolment in Indonesia was ranked 75th (WEF, 2015). It was recorded that in 2015 the gross tertiary education enrolment was still at 33.66 %, with 4,378 HEIs and 7,392,829 students (MRTHE Annual Report 2015). Indonesia enjoys a high number of HEIs, but at the same time suffers from great quality disparity – only nine of the country’s universities were ranked in the QS World University Ranking in 2016.

In comparison with top universities in ASEAN countries, Indonesian HEIs (represented by UI and ITB) are still positioned below those in Singapore (NUS, NTU), Malaysia (UM, UKM, UPM, USM, UTM), Thailand (UC, UM), and the Philippines (UP). This is mainly due to the amount of budget allocated by respective governments for improving academic quality and reputation, research infrastructure and productivity, graduate performance, and internationalisation.

Nevertheless, policymakers are often criticised by HEIs’ internal stakeholders for putting too much emphasis on university ranking as it requires substantial amount of funding. It is mandated that HEIs implement the “three pillars of higher education”, namely education, research and community services. In the Strategic Plan of MRTHE 2015–2019, it is clearly stated that the community expects HEIs to produce graduates as agents of economic development, a performance indicator that is not specifically included in the world or Asian university ranking.

In line with the aforementioned new initiative for the HEIs, Directorate General for Strengthening Institution of Research, Technology and Higher Education has established a task force to provide advice and facilitate the targeted HEIs in planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating their programmes. The programme details are varied with respect to the individual needs, resources and constraints of the HEIs. In general, the programme covers: (1) developing system for data collection and integration, (2) building better perception on university ranking internally, (3) providing special funding scheme for affirmative programmes that are directly linked with the WUR performance indicators such as international publication and citation, internationalisation, and reputation building for both academic and graduate employability, and (4) extending academic networks and benchmarking with world-class HEIs and research institutions.

Despite the limited budget available, the new initiative of MRTHE is intended to contribute to the competitiveness of the nation. It requires consolidated programmes and activities in each HEI and the cooperation among Indonesian HEIs. Enabling factors for the success of the new initiative – namely human resources (faculty, staff, and student), research infrastructure, funding, and regulations – must be taken into account seriously. For example, Bogor Agricultural University (IPB) has been actively participating at QS-APPLE conferences since 2008, and in fact co-hosted the 8th QS-APPLE in 2012. Participating at QS-APPLE and other similar events such as QS-MAPLE, EAIE, NAFSA, APAIE, THE summit, and WCU conference helps establish academic networks as well as increase the university’s reputation.


Implementation of the new initiative programme has resulted in improved world-class status of some HEIs. After one year from the implementation of the initiative, a positive trend is visible in terms of university ranking performance on the part of most of the HEIs involved: UI, ITB, and UGM have been ranked higher this year, and even though IPB is still in the same position (701+) as last year in QS WUR, it has gone up in the QS AUR (191) and QS WUR by Subject for agriculture and forestry (51–100).

The established WCU Task Force in MRTHE and autonomous status of the targeted HEIs are crucial for achieving the target of the Mid Term National Development Planning 2015–2019, i.e. five HEIs in the list of Top 500 QS WUR in 2019. Consolidated programmes that directly contribute to the increase of HEI’s reputation and academic achievement must be well set up and implemented sustainably.

Prof Anas Miftah Fauzi was born in 1960. He received M.Eng from  Osaka University (Japan) in 1990, and PhD from Kent University (UK)     in 1996. His administration role includes dean of Faculty of Agricultural Engineering and Technology (2004–2007) and vice rector for research and collaboration (2008–present) at Bogor Agricultural University (IPB). He actively participates in several overseas professional trainings, workshops and conferences in science and higher education management. Dr Anas engages in international academic forums such as University Network for Tropical Agriculture (UNTA), and initiates and manages international academic collaboration projects, including joint research and joint/double degree programmes. He is currently a speaker (coordinator) of a university consortium for research cooperation with international partners, including CRC990/EFFoRTs, PETUAH and SATREPS Projects, and he is a member of WCU Task Force of Indonesian Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education.


The author would like to acknowledge Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education and WCU Task Force for their support and contribution.