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Universities for Expats in Indonesia

Submitted:October 2014

There are over 3,000 universities and other institutes of higher education in Indonesia. There is a world university ranking site here showing how Indonesian universities rank globally. Only around 80 of these institutions are public, and it is these that have the highest reputations, and hence the fiercest competition for available places. Public universities and polytechnics are supported by the state. Public universities charge tuition fees, however they are extremely low by international standards. Private universities also charge fees; these vary considerably but can be ten times the fees charged at public institutions. Private universities also charge high admission fees.

Entry into a public university is decided on the basis of the overall mark achieved in the student’s Certificate of Graduation from secondary school, and their performance in National University Entrance Exam (Seleksi Penerimaan Mahasiswa Baru).  Private universities, polytecnics and academies have their own entrance exams.

As an expat, you should be aware that the language of instruction in some higher education classes may be Indonesian. If this is the case with a course you are applying for, fluency or near fluency in this language (known locally as Bahasa Indonesia or BI) may be a prerequisite to obtaining a place. You can study for one of the three TIBA Indonesian proficiency tests offered by Lembaga Bahasa International (LBI); there are tests for academic and occupational (business) purposes and a test for prospective high school students. There is more information regarding these tests on their website here. Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) have begun offering one of their internationally recognised qualifications, the IGCSE in Indonesian, with the first exams taking place in June 2016. There is more information available here.

Indonesian institutes of higher education offer diplomas as well as degrees. Diplomas are offered in four levels from D-I to D-IV, the numerals indicating the number of years of study, though the actual measure used is one of credits. Diplomas generally require achieving 40-160 credits. A D-II diploma is generally the equivalent of a UK teacher training qualification, a D-III is similar to a polytechnic degree and a D-IV is generally equates to a UK BSc.

Undergraduate bachelor degrees at Indonesian universities generally take four to five years to complete (144-160 credits), depending on the subject chosen.  Some courses in such subjects as medicine take longer. Masters degrees generally require an additional two years to complete (35-50 credits plus a thesis), and doctorates need another three to four years (around 50 credits plus a dissertation).

The fall of the Suharto regime in 1998 has led to numerous attempts to reform the education system in Indonesia. The explosion in the number of private institutions of education in the country since that date has led to a somewhat top-heavy educational structure. The competition may be fierce for students seeking entry to the public universities, but the situation in the private universities is almost the opposite. With only around 650,000 students to be spread around 3,000 institutes in the private sector, competition between institutes to attract the quota necessary to ensure financial survival is equally fierce. There is some anecdotal evidence that this has led to falling standards and reduced capital investment in the institutes. This is backed up by the ever-increasing number of students choosing to study abroad to achieve a better-recognised qualification, albeit at a far greater price.




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