Radhiyya Indra, Jakarta – The government has revoked the licenses of nearly two dozen universities engaged in fraud over the past week, adding to the hundreds it has shut down in recent years, as the nation continues to struggle with misrepresentation and misconduct in the higher education system.
The Education, Culture, Research and Technology Ministry recently stripped 23 private universities of their accreditations over illegal practices that included selling fake diplomas, not fulfilling higher education standards, presenting fictitious study programs and committing fraud in awarding the Indonesia Smart College Card (KIP-K) scholarship.
"We catch these illegal campuses based on their fulfillment of national standards of higher education," Lukman, the ministry's director for institutional affairs, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
He said there had been 53 reports of problematic activity at universities from May 2022 to 2023.
While the ministry has not announced which universities had their licenses revoked, students have taken to social media to share their experiences at these now-shuttered institutions, which include the Technology University of Indonesia (UTI) in Bali, STIE Tridharma in Bandung and STIE Tribuana in Bekasi.
"This revocation of operating licenses is the government's way of protecting the public, especially students, from bad educational administration and fraud by mean-spirited education providers," Nizam, the ministry's acting director general for higher education, said in a press statement on June 8.
Lukman said educational fraud persisted for two main reasons: the ever-present demand for fake diplomas and institutions that sought to profit off of students.
Experts say the quantity of fake diplomas and sham universities over the years indicates a structural failure in the country's education system.
"This is proof of the failure of our character education over the years. As long as there is demand, illegal universities will continue to emerge," education observer Ina Liem told the Post on Friday.
"So in the short term, [fraudulent universities] must be continuously tracked down and given sanctions. But there must also be a mental revolution for the long term," she said, adding that the focus had to be on "chasing knowledge or expertise, not diplomas".
Education expert Indra Charismiadji said the profusion of fake diploma cases reflected the counterproductive demand for formal certification in the workforce.
"In Indonesia, we're still looking at someone who has the 'papers' to work, when in fact, we're already living in the era of competencies," Indra said.
Indonesia is striving to benefit from its ongoing demographic dividend. The country's working-age population is projected to peak between 2020 and 2030, with an added 10 million people of productive age in 2025, according to data from Statistics Indonesia (BPS).
Indra said policymakers and educators had to focus on building "SDM Unggul" (excellent human resources). "Our education system needs to have a massive overhaul. That's the government's responsibility," Indra said.
The Education, Culture, Research and Technology Ministry has warned students to make sure the universities they attend are accredited and to resist being "tempted by the lure of easy diplomas".
"These kinds of cases are why I only want to go to a big university," 17-year-old high schooler Haura told the Post on Friday.
"If I ended up at that kind of sham university, I would try reporting or suing them, I think," she said.
The ministry has said it will help students from the shuttered universities move to another, accredited institution. Lecturers who are found not to have been involved in the fraud schemes will be provided the same assistance, while lecturers found to be involved in the scam will be blacklisted.
As of March 2023, there were 9 million university students and 330,000 lecturers across the country's 29,324 programs of study at 4,231 universities.