Foreign Lecturers and Quality of Universities


April 23, 2016 21:11 GMT+7

Starting this year, the Research and Technology and Higher Education Ministry will officially allow foreign lecturers to teach and conduct research at both state and private universities.

This will surely have an impact on the portrait of our universities in terms of quality of the lecturers, composition of lecturers in universities, quality of education and the level of competition among those intending to become lecturers. In aggregate for the benefit of the nation, will the entrance of foreign lecturers improve the quality of our higher education?

Welcome foreign lecturers

The director general of science and technology resources and higher education at the Research and Technology and Higher Education Ministry, Ali Ghufron, invited foreign lecturers to teach in the country. “We will give a quota of 10 percent through the special lecturer registration number [NIDK],” he said (28/2).

The statement was repeated again when he visited Surabaya on March 17. The ultimate aim of the recruitment of foreign lecturers is to enable state universities, especially the Legal Entity State Universities (PTN BH), to gain a spot among the 500 major world university rankings.

For the author, the initiative of the Research and Technology and Higher Education Ministry constitutes a fresh breeze. This is not unusual because Malaysia is also doing the same thing. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was brave enough to invite several British and American universities to open branches in Malaysia. Mahathir deliberately invited them to improve the competitiveness of the Malaysian universities.

Mahathir also had an economic consideration: rather than spending Malaysian people’s money overseas by sending students abroad, it was better to invite the universities to Malaysia, a brilliant idea. Even now, the chairman of the Malaysian accreditation body is the rector of Monash University in Malaysia. Malaysia carried this move out long before the era of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Despite the lateness of the move, we have finally opened the door too, however we should be cautious moving forward.

Inviting foreign lecturers is expected to bring benefits to the country through brain gain.

Together with foreign lecturers who have research capabilities, our professors will be able to collaborate in research and publication. Good research is expected to improve the quality of the publications of the lecturers or our universities. Research with a clear map of the course is also expected to help produce needed products.

In terms of teaching, perhaps their work ethos could be a mirror for our lecturers. Their ethos could be in the discipline of teaching time, ensuring suitability between the teaching materials and learning plans, returning assignments and giving feedback to students.

For prospective lecturers in the country, the arrival of foreign lecturers will result in tougher competition for jobs at state universities or well-managed private universities. In order to prepare for that, the prospective lecturers should aim to further excel in college.

Fourth, recruiting foreign lecturers will help attract students. Students will be able to seek knowledge and gain experience from the foreign lecturers without having to go overseas, thereby saving foreign exchange.

The above can be realized with requirements: Foreign lecturers must have a good track record in terms of publications and research. This will hinder efforts to achieve the initial target. Quality is number one.

To obtain foreign lecturers of good quality requires adequate funds. It is better for the Research and Technology and Higher Education Ministry to cooperate with other institutions, such as the Education Fund Management Institute (LPDP). The LPDP manages a large sum of money to invite foreign lecturers. The cooperation of the two will push our universities to enter the top 500 of the world.

The adage “Ono rego ono rupo”, which literally means quality is commensurate with the price, will apply in the recruitment of foreign lecturers. With an adequate budget, we can recruit those proven to be strong in their fields. However, given the lack of good infrastructure in both the public and universities, there must be interesting bids to get qualified foreign lecturers.

The author has disclosed the idea of inviting foreign academics to universities in Indonesia to do research, guide postgraduate students and teach. This is at least a viable alternative rather than simply sending students or lecturers overseas (“From Brain Drain to Brain Gain”), Kompas May 2, 2014.

Perhaps, for certain circles, the arrival of the lecturers will pose a threat. However, I think the government is wise enough to limit the quota. Therefore, the “threat” that may arise can be used as a chance to improve the quality of our lecturers, instead of pressing the domestic lecturers so that they cannot develop. Maybe areas where foreign lecturers should teach could also be limited.

Call to go home

Foreign lecturers to be recruited do not have to be expatriates. They can be Indonesian people who have long worked overseas as lecturers and researchers. Many of our academics are working abroad with good track records in research and publishing. With an attractive offer, they may be willing to return to the country.

However, we have to keep in mind that when foreign lecturers conduct research, they have to abide by strict agreements. Do not let our rights to utilize our natural wealth as the basis for strategic findings, such as pharmaceuticals, superior seeds, or other natural resources potentials, fall to them. As a result, we will simply provide research materials without getting any proper benefits. Permits for research, which must gain consent from the Research and Technology and Higher Education Ministry and departments relevant to the research topics, should not only involve local universities. This is intended not to inhibit research, but for the sake of prudence.

There are many incidences of expatriates on tourist visas working with local researchers from universities in Indonesia, taking advantage of our natural wealth.

Foreign students

We recommend that the recruitment of lecturers be followed by the recruitment of foreign students through the research assistant scheme. In this scheme, lecturers can pay research assistants. The payments should be standardized and officially known by the universities. This procurement scheme is expected to improve the research performance of the lecturers. With this scheme, foreign lecturers can bring in the best students from their universities of origin to Indonesia. The involvement of the foreign students is expected to strengthen research.

The immigration office should apply a special status, such as student visas or the like for foreign academics and students as the institution is known for spending an excessive amount of time processing stay permits for incoming foreign researchers. This problem has been going on for many years without any improvement despite Cabinet changes.

By preparing early, the target of improving the position of our universities in the world university rankings can be measured. If the idea of the Research and Technology and Higher Education Ministry is not carried out and implemented properly, it will only become a luxury without adequate results.


ITS industrial technique lecturer; formerly a dean assistant on cooperation and visiting professor abroab.

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