For Indonesian higher education, it's time to grow up

For Indonesian higher education, it's time to grow up
Indonesian job-seekers fill out applications at the Career & Higher Education Fair in Jakarta on April 10.

Globalization is prompting many Asian governments to rethink higher education policy. They are enacting reforms and forging links with Western educational institutions. Yet Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest country, remains reluctant to open up to the rest of the world, maintaining a protectionist attitude that is holding back its universities and its economy.

Foreign universities are keen to establish beachheads in Asia, where a combination of rising incomes and favourable demography means that college enrollments are set to grow for years to come. Branch campuses, partnerships with local universities and online education offer these institutions an alternative to the traditional path of recruiting international students to attend the home campus.

For the host country, the entry of global universities expands the choices available to students and opens up opportunities for local scholars to collaborate with international researchers. Although they account for a tiny share of student enrollments, the presence of foreign institutions can motivate domestic universities to raise standards and pay closer attention to student outcomes.

Singapore, a pioneer in the internationalization of higher education, now hosts 13 branch campuses and has numerous international partnerships. These include the Asia campus of the Paris-based Insead business school and outposts of US institutions such as Duke University Medical School, the University of Chicago, Stanford University and Yale-NUS, a collaboration between Yale University and the National University of Singapore. Government planners have positioned the city-state as an education hub, attracting students to its universities and multinational companies on the lookout for highly skilled staff and links to global research institutions.

Other countries have followed Singapore's lead, including China, which now hosts more than 30 branch campuses from the US, the UK, Germany, Japan and Australia, among others. Malaysia has invested heavily in its own universities and also opened its doors to foreign institutions, including several British and Australian branch campuses, such as Newcastle University Medical School and Nottingham University's Malaysia campus. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management has announced a partnership with Malaysia's Central Bank to open a new Asia School of Business in Kuala Lumpur in 2016. Even Vietnam has gotten in on the act with a branch campus of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and two planned Vietnam-Japan Medical Schools, among other ventures.

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