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Independent Universities Inc.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Education Minister Nadiem Makarim has a design for universities to be able to independently fund higher education. He does not care about sky-high fees.

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Independent Universities Inc.. tempo : 172147895052.

THE statement by Education, Culture, Research and Technology Minister Nadiem Makarim about the rise in fees at universities is concrete proof of the commercialization of education. Speaking to the Education Commission at the House of Representatives, he said that high fees in universities are a manifestation of fairness: rich students subsidize poor students.

At first glance, this statement appears to be at odds with the Constitution. The 1945 Constitution obliges the government to provide proper education for every citizen, rich or poor. Therefore, since Indonesian independence, education has been subsidized to ensure it is accessible to all.

The National Education Law obliges the government to allocate 20 percent of the State Budget to the education sector. Autonomy has led to regional governments also sharing the costs of basic education because higher education is the responsibility of the central government. But the fact is that higher education only receives 1.11 percent of the State Budget. It is this low level of funding for higher education that the Ministry of Education is using as an excuse to increase fees.

The reason for the high costs of higher education is the 1999 government policy of improving the quality of university education by giving campuses autonomy. Seven pioneer universities became state-owned legal entities (BHMN). As a result, they lost their subsidies. As a replacement, universities look for funding through cooperative ventures with the private sector or by developing businesses.

As a result of the loss of these subsidies, fees have risen. Following student protests, in 2010 the Constitutional Court struck down Law No. 9/2009 on Education Legal Entities. Undaunted, the government changed the form of BHMN universities to public service entities (BLU). Now the name of BHMN universities has again changed to university legal entities. The principle is the same: universities with the status of legal entity are free to seek funding to cover the costs of campus activities.

However, after 25 years since this change, there have been no significant improvements in the quality of universities. The University of Indonesia, for example, which is the number one campus in Indonesia, is ranked at number 537 in the world. Having the freedom to seek funding has not automatically led to improvements in the quality of our universities.

Now the BLU universities are vying to become legal entities in order to be free to determine their own policies. One of the requirements for becoming a legal entity is that universities must have good educational facilities. In order to obtain funding to meet this requirement, universities are increasing fees for students.

In contrast to universities that are legal entities, BLU universities need to obtain approval from the Ministry of Education for higher fees. This authority could prevent the uncontrolled commercialization of higher education.

However, the Ministry of Education is being neglectful when selecting campuses allowed to charge high fees. Citing the fact that universities are a means of tertiary education, Minister Nadiem Makarim has approved the proposed hike in fees even if they are not affordable for all prospective students. As a result, these fees are preventing many students from experiencing higher education at state universities. In the long term, this policy could lead to social segregation because students’ ability to study at university will be based on whether they are rich or poor.

The government’s claim that the state is unable to pay subsidies to realize good education is clearly a contrivance. The 2023 State Budget is Rp3,121 trillion, almost half of which is for social assistance, infrastructure projects and the Nusantara Capital City. This excuse is not accompanied by solutions that would allow everybody to have equal access to education. In the United States, where universities are like corporations, the government provides education credits for poorer students.

Outside the United States, many nations provide high quality education for their people. Although Germany, France and other European nations are capitalist, they still view education as an investment. In Indonesia, where praises are sung for Pancasila and social principles, education policy is moving towards commercialism that contradicts the Constitution.

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