Indonesia's leading Catholic university has signed a deal to collaborate with nine universities and colleges in neighboring Timor-Leste, as part of an effort to improve education quality and foster fraternity between the institutions.
The cooperation was sealed in a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on July 21 between the rector of Jakarta-based Atma Jaya Catholic University of Indonesia and representatives from nine campuses in Timor-Leste, including the Catholic University of Timor-Leste (UCT) – the country's first Catholic university – and the Institute of Philosophy and Theology, officially called the Instituto Filosofia e Theologia Dom Jaime Garcia Goulart.
The signing was held after a public lecture by President Jose Ramos-Horta on 'From Global and Regional Politics, Into Innovative Approaches Solutions,' at the Atma Jaya campus, part of his agenda during his visit to Indonesia this week.
In a statement, Atma Jaya said the MoU regulates cooperation in the fields of teaching, research and community service, by agreeing on concrete programs such as student exchanges, internships and opportunities for university lecturers to teach in Timor-Leste.
Agustinus Prasetyantoko, Atma Jaya's rector, said the collaboration was part of their commitment to expanding their network at the regional and global levels in order to promote better educational performance.
"Atma Jaya Catholic University already has a very strong relationship with Timor-Leste. There have been many great Timorese youths who have become our students in the past. Currently, there are three active students from Timor Leste studying at our university. It is hoped that this good relationship will continue, giving birth to a superior young generation," he said.
He also officially launched a program of 50 tuition-free scholarships for Timorese students.
President Ramos-Horta welcomed the cooperation, which he said was in line with his government's program where one of the main focuses was improving the quality of human resources.
"The good relationship between us [with this university] has had many positive impacts on the progress of Timor-Leste's education," he said.
He also said the initiative strengthens the brotherly relationship between Timor-Leste and Indonesia, which have had a history of conflict in the past but were able to build healthy relations.
Atma Jaya University, founded in 1960, is ranked the third best private university in Indonesia based on the QS Asia University Ranking 2022 list. Pope John Paul II visited the university during his visit to Indonesia in 1989.
Franciscan Father Joel Casimiro Pinto, UCT's rector who was present at the signing ceremony, said they hoped that the MoU could help to build UCT into a renowned university.
He said the focus of their collaboration was indeed different with each of the nine universities.
"UCT will focus on cooperation in the fields of medicine, law and agricultural engineering study programs, as well as exploring the opening of a psychology faculty which will be the first in Timor-Leste," he told UCA News.
He said another collaboration was related to teachers from Atma Jaya teaching at UCT.
"As a new university, apart from utilizing local resources in Timor-Leste, we also expect contributions from lecturers from other countries. Currently, there are at least 12 pupils from Brazil, Cuba, Japan, Portugal, Australia and Indonesia," he said.
UCT, which started operation this year, has 800 students spread across 10 study programs.