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Tuition fee hikes spark wave of student protest around the country

Rakyat Merdeka - May 10, 2024

Susilo Yekti – The increase in Single Tuition Fees (UKT) at a number of state universities (PTN) has and triggered a wave of protests by students and attracted attention from many parties who say that the increase is not pro-education.

One of the demonstrations that attracted public attention was by hundreds of students at the University of North Sumatra (USU) in the North Sumatra city of Medan, who protested the 2024 UKT increase that has risen by more than 100 percent.

The hundreds of students demanding a reduction in UKT came from a number of faculties. They also carried protest banners including posters depicting the face of the USU Chancellor wearing dollar glasses.

USU students believe that the UKT increases are not accompanied by improvements to campus facilities. Moreover they claimed it was difficult for those on campus to use the USU facilities.

Another protest occurred at the Riau State University (Unri). A student named Khariq Anhar protested the Institutional Development Contribution (IPI) provisions in the UKT that students have to pay.

On Monday May 4 he demonstrated by putting his alma mater jacket in front of the campus, as if it was being sold and recorded the action in a video.

Two weeks after this, Anhar was reported to the Riau regional police special crimes detective directorate by Unri Chancellor Sri Indarti for allegedly violating the Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE) Law.

On the island of Java, there were protests by students from the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University (UIN). The chairperson of the Religious Outreach and Communication Sciences Faculty Student Executive Council (BEM), Najib Jayakarta, said that the increase in the UKT at their campus varied by around 30-50 percent.

"My study department (social welfare) experienced one of the highest increases, in group seven. Last year it was 5.3 million rupiah, now it has risen to 8 million rupiah. The increase was very drastic", he said.

Jayakarta claimed they had been contacted by the head of the Jakarta UIN information and public relations centre, Zaenal Muttaqin. However, a dialogue on the objections to the UKT failed to be realised.

"We were continuously stalled or silenced. In fact, on the disposition sheet there was the writing 'archive first'", he complained.

Students from the Jenderal Soedirman University (Unsoed) were more fortunate. After a protest action over a five-fold increase in tuition fees, the Unsoed Chancellor revoked the UKT increase policy.

Prior to being revoked, the Unsoed BEM President Maulana Ihsanul Huda stressed that the UKN fees charged to students we beyond the limit and were moreover extremely burdensome.

"For example, international relations studies, previously it was only 3 million rupiah, it could rise to as much as 13 million rupiah. A very significant increase. In fact, for international nursing, up to 52 million rupiah", he explained.

House of Representatives (DPR) member Guspardi Gaus from the National Mandate Party (PAN) faction claims to understand the anxiety of students and parents over the UKT increases. According to Gaus, the UKT increase should be done in stages, and with good socialisation and transparency.

"It should be gradual, not all of a sudden. At present, the average income situation for the Indonesian people has not yet improved, so the UKT increase is not logical and irrelevant", said Gaus in Jakarta on Thursday May 9.

Furthermore, he is pushing for an evaluation and a study of higher education autonomy and Tertiary Education Institution Legal Entities (PTN-BH) funding mechanisms. Particularly related autonomous funding and policy management so that higher education institutions with a PTN-BH status remain affordable to the wider community.

The UKT increases have also attracted attention from netizens on X (Twitter).

"UKT have no history of going down, it keeps going up. This will erase the interest of SMA (senior high school) graduates going on to college. Later in 2045, a Useless Generation will be born who can't do anything because they don't have a brain, have no skills, and don't have a job because they've been taken over by AI", wrote @Rajonon, alluding to the government's vision of Golden Indonesia 2045.

Similarly, @never_alonely also highlighted UKT increases saying they understand the wave of student protests because it will have a massive impact on the economic life of the community.

"The UKT increases are really big, crazy! From 9 million rupiah, it can increase tens of millions. Yes, protest", they tweeted.

@abanggsayur said UKT increases have the potential to take the higher education world back to the early era of independence. According to @abanggsayur, students' parents had to sell their property in order to see their children graduate from a bachelor program.

"Tuition fees are expensive. UKT increase. The end will be selling land for college. Ok gas", they said.

Meanwhile, @bellaviztaa said they decided to enter a state campus in the hope of helping to ease the burden on his parents related to the cost of education.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Mahasiswa Protes Kenaikan UKT, Netizen: Akan Lahir Useless Generation".]

Source: https://rm.id/baca-berita/nasional/220013/mahasiswa-protes-kenaikan-ukt-netizen-akan-lahir-useless-generatio