Indonesia and the Netherlands looking for synergy in education

11 Apr 2016

Jakarta Globe, Nivell Rayda

Indonesia and the Netherlands are trying to find ways to achieve synergy and strengthen cooperation in higher education, research and innovation in a seminar slated for April 21, says Mervin Bakker, director of the Netherlands Education Support Office (Nuffic Neso) Indonesia. In an exclusive interview with the Jakarta Globe, Bakker said that in the past four years, academic cooperation programs have been popping up between Indonesian universities and research bodies and their Dutch counterparts, mostly in the form of joint research and double degree programs.

“A lot is happening in Indonesia. A lot of individual cooperation between universities and smaller programs. Let’s try to analyze all these different activities, talk together and see where we can achieve synergy,” he said.

With the theme “Investing in a Joint Future,” the education and research seminar in Jakarta is a continuation of a similar seminar held in The Hague on Dec. 9, where officials from both countries began mapping out the various programs, projects and cooperation between Indonesian and Dutch universities.

In Jakarta, representatives from the Indonesian Ministry of Research and Higher Education, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Indonesian universities and their Dutch counterparts will sit down to discuss how to best implement this synergy plan. “This is a bilateral seminar, to discuss different topics. For example research cooperation: what are the priorities of Indonesia and what are the priorities of the Netherlands? What is the bilateral agenda? Where can we find links? Then we can do research which can be beneficial for both countries,” Bakker said. “With education it’s the same. What is [the Indonesian government] doing, what are [Indonesian universities] doing, what are we [the Dutch] doing? We could explore joint scholarships. Our goals are the same, so let’s combine our funds together so we can have a bigger impact and really move from a high-level discussion to a more practical implementation.”

The seminar will emphasize the need for better coordination and to complement each other’s expertise and resources. One example is to have coordinating bodies like Nuffic Neso make sure research projects don’t overlap and spot opportunities in areas the Indonesian government is currently focusing on, like agriculture, maritime affairs, fisheries and infrastructure.

“If Indonesia wants more high-level scientific research on maritime affairs, are there any links in the Netherlands for that field, are there any projects in Indonesia and how can that benefit both countries?” Bakker said. According to Nuffic Neso Indonesia, there are currently 14 programs between Indonesian and Dutch universities with a total value of more than 20 million euros ($23 million) to develop curriculums and improve research capacities on top the thousands of Indonesian students leaving for study in the Netherlands each year under scholarships and dual degree programs.

Many of the top universities in Indonesia were set up in the days of Dutch colonial rule, which means many use similar systems and have specializations to those of their Dutch counterparts. Both countries have universities specializing in agriculture (Bogor Institute of Agriculture, IPB, and its Dutch equivalent Wageningen University) and maritime affairs (Sepuluh November Institute of Technology or ITS in Surabaya and the marine technology division at Delft University of Technology), which means there are plenty of opportunities to work together in education, research and innovation.

Overall ties between the Netherlands and Indonesia have been warming lately, with Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders insisting during a recent visit to Indonesia that “even with all its ups and downs, our shared history offers a sound basis for building a shared future.” The Netherlands has also been one of the biggest investors in Indonesia in recent years. Bakker noted that the Dutch have a lot of expertise in some of the fields the Indonesian government is currently focusing on, like logistics, transportation, water management, flood control and sanitation. “We offer very high quality education. If you look at the world’s university rankings, we have 13 in the top 200 universities in the world. For such a small country, that is a big achievement. The fact that so many are in the ranking means the overall quality should be good. That’s the main reason why Indonesian universities and students turn to the Netherlands.”