Sat, 28 Jun 2003

Govt asks for transparent use of admission fees

Andi Hajramurni and Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Makassar/Yogyakarta

The government said it would not prohibit state universities with autonomous status from selling some placements to students from well-off families, but reminded them to be transparent in using the money.

Minister of National Education Abdul Malik Fadjar said on Friday there was no excuse for the universities not to be accountable when it came to the whopping amount of funds raised from the public.

"There must be transparency, openness and public accountability so that the public understands and accepts the reasons behind the policy, and so that their arguments make sense," Malik said on the sidelines of the Muhammadiyah congress in the South Sulawesi capital, Makassar.

He said the government had issued directives for the universities to implement the policy, which has met with criticism nationwide for discriminating against poor students and compromising the quality of education.

The University of Indonesia in Jakarta, Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) and the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) in West Java have reserved a portion of their seats for the new academic year for students who can afford to pay admission fees far above the normal rate.

They claimed that the funds raised from the "special program" would help them finance education activities after the government cut its subsidy for them, thanks to their new status as autonomous universities.

While Gadjah Mada University is charging each student at least Rp 5 million (US$609), the University of Indonesia is asking for between Rp 25 million and Rp 75 million. ITB is offering placements for up to Rp 150 million.

The universities will admit more students through the national admission tests that involve 48 state universities across the country on July 1 and July 2, with 82,950 placements on offer.

Malik said a House of Representatives hearing with rectors of the four autonomous universities was part of attempts to disseminate information on the reasons behind the controversial policy.

"The effort to disseminate information needs a follow-up to give the public a clear picture of the policy," Malik said.

During the hearing in Jakarta on Wednesday, House Commission VI on education asked the universities to review their policy.

In Yogyakarta, Gadjah Mada rector Sofian Effendi maintained that the country's oldest university would not comply with the House's request.

"We are not turning this university into a profit-seeking institution. Commercializing education to me means, for example, sacrificing academic standards for the sake of money, or selling diplomas or placements," he said.

"The results of the test are the determining factor for students to qualify for this university."

He said the high charge was another attempt to prevent wasted seats.

"Of the 6,000 new students we accept every year, usually about 10 percent of the seats are squandered as the students do not reregister. In the past, we just abandoned them. But now we have a legal entity status, so why don't we just offer them to those who are willing to study without being subsidized?" Sofian said.

From the special program this year, some 600 new students of Gadjah Mada University will pay the full tuition fee of Rp 11 million a year, excluding the Rp 5 million admission fee.

On Thursday, some 50 students grouped in the Students Concerned about Gadjah Mada University staged a rally on the campus to protest the high charge and demand cheap education.