International education for Indonesians, with a little help from Australia
Indonesia, say hello to foreign universities. Source: Shutterstock

In a “historic” free trade deal between the two countries set to be announced this week, Indonesia could be seeing Australian universities set up campus in the Southeast Asian archipelago very soon…

The announcement follows Indonesia’s declaration earlier this year to permit foreign higher education providers to partner with local private universities. Among the Australian universities in line to do so sits Melbourne, Monash and RMIT, according to Patdono Suwignjo, Director General from the Indonesian Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education.

With more branches in Indonesia, far greater numbers of Indonesian students will have access to higher education, he said.

“The main thing is that if a university wants to set up a branch here in Indonesia it has to cooperate with an Indonesian university,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald.

A senior Indonesian government official told The Guardian Australia: “By inviting international universities to Indonesia they become much more accessible to a much larger number of Indonesians. We don’t want an international education to only be available to the rich.”

The trade deal is also expected to eliminate import duties on Australian yachts and boats as well as locking in import quotas for Australia’s cattle industry.

As for the timeline for testablishing foreign campuses in Indonesia, Patdono said: “If possible the Indonesian government wishes that at least one of them will start this year, although they said it would be difficult to do. But one of them stated its readiness to be running this year because it has numerous experience of opening its branches abroad.”

According to UNESCO data, the top destination for Indonesians studying abroad is Australia with 10,676 students, followed by the US (8,922) and Malaysia (8,039). But the data does not show any Australians studying at Indonesian universities.

Speaking to The Australian Financial Review at the Higher Education Summit in Melbourne on Tuesday, Michael Fay, NSW Chairman of the Australia Indonesia Business Council said Indonesia is greatly interested in having an Australian university that “covers both the skills training and higher education”.

Though the Indonesian government is reportedly receiving pushback from nationalist forces, Fay said they have been “comforted” by the smooth introduction of overseas campuses in Malaysia, including those of Swinburne and Curtin universities.

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