Starting a university in Indonesia

Indonesia is accelerating its drive to strengthen human capital and thereby better position itself economically. One component of this is inviting leading international universities to establish fully fledged campuses inside Indonesia. Monash University is the first to do so.

What will success look like? Success for Indonesia as a whole, success for the higher education sector in Indonesia and, indeed, success for Monash University. It’s a basic question, and one worth being clear about from the outset.

Monash Indonesia will commence operations in 2021 as a post-graduate university. Along with producing high-impact research, it will train Masters and PhD students and run short ’executive education’ programs. To begin with, it will focus in areas such as Data Science, Urban Design, Business Innovation, Public Policy & Management and Public Health.

The mission of Monash Indonesia is to make a clear and strong contribution to the further social, economic and technological advancement of Indonesia. My own view is that this is the fundamental benchmark by which the new campus will be judged.

The Government of Indonesia has been exceptionally supportive of the venture, but it will want to see results and see them soon. Early commentary in the institutional media and on social media reflects a mixture of excitement about something new for Indonesia, and to a lesser extent concern about possible competitive pressures on local institutions. 

Monash University is already well known in Indonesia and elsewhere for big research projects, such as eliminating Dengue fever and improving health and water in low income communities. The new campus in Indonesia is committed to forging strong research and education partnerships with a cross-section of public, private and Islamic universities. That work is starting, but local institutions will watch with more than passing interest to see how it pans out.

And for Monash University itself? Again in my view, most immediately, the focus will be on success with creating a vibrant academic community on campus, high performing and well satisfied graduates, and a powerful mix of industry partners that co-invest in big research and education initiatives which conspicuously contribute to the social, economic and technological advancement of Indonesia.

That, I would say, is what success looks like. It’s a big undertaking and expectations are high. Watch this space.

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