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Indonesian education scandal should lead to improving the sector at a time of high demand

Map of Australia and Indonesia

The latest corruption scandal in Indonesian public higher education should start a backlash to finally reform – and strengthen – the sector

Indonesia has more than 4,500 higher education institutions – 2,000 more than China – and research productivity has increased in recent years, albeit off a low base. However, Indonesia’s highest ranked institution in Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2022, the University of Indonesia, is only 17th in Southeast Asia – in the 801-1000 range globally. And Indonesian universities’ rankings are generally declining.

The global reputation for local higher education is in contrast of a growing demand for higher education in Indonesia. In a country where enrolment in higher education increased from 5.2 million people in 2010 to 8 million in 2018, there is an explosion in enrolment numbers coming up ahead. Indonesia’s national student cohort is growing at a fast rate apace with India and China.

Recent scandals have revealed an endemic problem of academic corruption, including nepotism in the lucrative civil servant appointments of Indonesian academics. As Fistra Janrio observes, “corruption is the enemy of quality” and if the Indonesian government cannot create a true meritocracy in the higher education system, “the future of the nation is bleak”.

Clearly, the scale of the sector is challenging for regulating quality. Yet, there should be at least a handful of institutions that can attain international excellence, and this can serve to pull up standards nationally by example, and provide better in-country study options.


Sources and further reading

Chan, Caroline. Briefing Note: Indonesia’s higher education systems, The Australia-Indonesia Centre 2019 https://skills.australiaindonesiacentre.org/reports/indonesias-higher-education-systems/


Professor Caroline Chan is the Pro Vice Chancellor Global Partnerships at University of Newcastle.

Author profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/caroline-chan-a4376a24/

OECD. Education at a Glance 2021.


Wikipedia, Higher education in China. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higher_education_in_China

Tandirerung, Fistra Janrio. Opinion: Corruption in higher education is holding Indonesia back. Times Higher Education. February 2022



Fistra Janrio Tandirerung is a General Practitioner and medical writer, currently enrolled in a Masters at UCL.

Author profile: linkedin.com/in/fistra-janrio-tandirerung