UK, Indonesia partner on higher education to deal with ‘ridiculous cost’

The bilateral partnership will allow Indonesian students to obtain foreign degrees without leaving the country.

Deni Ghifari

Deni Ghifari

The Jakarta Post


Illustration of students in a classroom.(

December 6, 2022

JAKARTA – A bilateral partnership with the United Kingdom promises to let Indonesian students obtain foreign degrees without leaving the country.

In a bid to overcome the issue of prohibitively expensive quality education, the government has welcomed a delegation of UK universities for a collaborative program with local universities set to launch next year.

Represented by its international education champion Steve Smith, the UK government said the venture was aimed at bumping up student numbers going into both countries reciprocally.

“We can do so much more together. […] we can remove the barriers, encourage more inclusive and balanced partnership between the two [countries],” the professor said on Thursday.

There are approximately 605,000 international students studying in the UK, but only 3,400 of them are from Indonesia, and Smith said the yearly figure of Indonesian students enrolling in higher education in the UK had been consistent for many years.

In addition, there are 510,000 students worldwide studying for British degrees in their own countries through what is known as transnational education (TNE), which is an arrangement where an institution either sets up a campus abroad or partners with a local institution, so that local students can study in said establishment without actually having to travel to the country in which the awarding institution is based.

However, only 925 Indonesian students are studying at UK universities through TNE.

Both governments deem it worthwhile to increase that number, hence the partnership. Aside from Indonesia, the UK is also prioritizing India, Vietnam, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia in its efforts to export education.

“The five countries were chosen because we thought that was where we could make most advance in terms of collaborating in the future,” Smith told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

“We’re not interested particularly in simply getting Indonesian students to come to the UK, we’re much more interested in building capacity here, in partnership with local institutions, so that we can bring the quality of the UK education at a price point that doesn’t require people to travel to the UK,” he added.

Smith said campuses of the two countries were negotiating and establishing linkages for collaborative programs that would come on stream starting next year.

“In the next three or four years, there’ll be more Indonesian students studying for UK degrees. In Indonesia, there’ll be more UK students coming to Indonesia,” said the professor, adding that, “the key thing about it is, this will leave a legacy that lasts forever.”

The UK universities involved are Coventry University, De Montfort University, University of Dundee, University of East London, University of Exeter, University of Glasgow, University of Hull, King’s College London, Lancaster University, University of London, University of Sussex, University of Warwick and Goldsmiths, University of London.

On the Indonesian side, the institutions are Binus University, Prasetiya Mulya University, Mercu Buana University, Tarumanagara University, Indonesia Cyber Education Institute, MNC University, State University of Surabaya, Catholic University of Parahyangan, Universitas Pembangunan Jaya, Atma Jaya Catholic University, Atma Jaya University of Yogyakarta, Padjadjaran University, Gajah Mada University, IPMI International Business School, Pelita Harapan University, University of Indonesia, Indonesia International Institute for Life Sciences (i3L), Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology, Telkom University and Ciputra University of Surabaya.

Speaking in the forum held for the UK-Indonesia partnership on Thursday, acting secretary to director general for vocational education Saryadi said the UK was an important international partner for the Education and Culture Ministry.

“The UK has indeed become an important partner of the ministry’s international partnership. It is the number one destination for both Indonesian students and the staff mobility program,” said Saryadi.

He revealed that 301 scholarship awardees from the Indonesian International Student Mobility Awards (IISMA) program had chosen to study in the UK, and 96 out of 194 vocational lecturers and staff chose the UK as the destination for their mobility program.

The ministry’s acting director general for institutional affairs in higher education, research and technology, Nizam, said there were more than 9 million students enrolled in Indonesia’s higher education system comprising more than 4,000 institutions.

“Especially this time, when the world is getting smaller, collaboration is, I think, a necessary and very important thing,” said Nizam.

“With technology [at our disposal], distance is now not an issue, so we can establish joint processes, joint degrees and other academic collaboration through technology, virtually or physically,” he added.

Smith told the Post that this partnership would someday lead UK universities toward building brick and mortar branch campuses in Indonesia.

However, he highlighted that globally, fewer than 7 percent of international students studied at branch campuses. “It’s the one that gets the headlines, but actually, it’s not the one that carries the weight of the activity. It’s better to invest your money in building people, rather than in buildings.”

Therefore, he said that, in the long run, the most sustainable system was to work with local partners, however much of a good look having a building might be.

Distance learning made up 21 percent of the UK’s cross-border education services, while franchising accounted for 31 percent. The majority, however, went to collaboration with 39 percent, it being the most sustainable and effective, thus the bilateral endeavor through UK-Indonesian government collaboration.

“The crucial point is, […] if a UK institution sets up a collaboration model, a franchise model, distance learning or a campus, you’ve got the assurance through our quality assurance agency, that the standards are the same as in the UK,” Smith said.

“What we’re trying to do is to spread the benefits of high quality without the ridiculous costs for it,” he added.

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