Tue, 05 Aug 2003

4,100 places at state universities remain vacant for new students

Sari P. Setiogi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

About 4,100 places in state universities across the country, supposed to have been taken by high school graduates via the state university admissions test (SPMB), remain vacant.

This year, 82,950 places were available at 48 state universities nationwide, but only 78,841 students passed the test.

Executive secretary of the central committee for SPMB Soesmalijah Soewondo told The Jakarta Post on Monday that the vacancies were caused by two factors.

"Students may have failed to meet the requirements so places remain unfilled, or certain programs may have had fewer applicants this year," she said.

Soesmalijah said the SPMB committee had nothing to do with the unfilled places. "That is fully within the authority of university rectors. Some might decide to admit more well- qualified students; we don't know".

The number of students that passed the state university admissions test (SPMB) this year dropped by 3.24 percent, as only 22.4 percent were accepted.

The places available at state universities in the country are always far below the number of applicants. This year, the ratio between students who were accepted and those who failed was about 1:5.

According to Soesmalijah, the decrease, from a total of 81,417 students last year to 78,841 this year, might have been caused by the reduction in places available in several study programs. She referred to Gajah Mada University, Yogyakarta, as an example.

However, she was not sure whether it might have been related to the special admissions policies announced earlier by several state universities.

Other causes, she said, might be because high school graduates increasingly preferred to take diploma courses so as to graduate faster and serach for a job. "Education is getting more expensive these days," said Soesmalijah.

The decrease had somehow been predictable earlier from the decreasing number of applicants, said Soesmalijah. "If last year we got about 400,000 applicants, this year we had only 352,000."

It was even below expectations, as they were expecting about 440,000 applicants, or an increase of about 10 percent more than in 2002.

Several months ago, some state universities announced a commercial admissions program, with fees of Rp 15 million (US$1765) to Rp 250 million, available for students from wealthy families.

The average normal admission fee at state universities is only Rp 1.2 million to Rp 5 million.

The admissions system sparked controversy, as it might have reduced the number of places available for normal admission via SPMB, as well as invite discrimination between the "haves" and "have-nots" among students.