Reshaping Higher Education: Agency in the internationalisation of Indonesian higher education

Year: 2017

Author: Sakhiyya, Zulfa

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

My paper examines the contemporary trend of internationalisation of higher education (HE), by taking Indonesian HE sector as a case, and highlights the roles of the local agents in mediating the global-local interplay. Like many other HE worldwide, Indonesian HE is being shaped and reshaped by two interdependent forces between the global and the local processes. This means, what happens in Indonesian HE also happens in other countries, but it has a different character. For example, privatisation was rejected in Indonesia, but internationalisation is accepted; whereas Western countries have embraced varying degrees of privatisation along with internationalisation. The internationalisation of HE serves as an entry point to embark the examination of this global-local interplay. It is a site where the push and pull between the local and the global, a complex interaction played out in the tension between the symbolic and economic instrumental form of knowledge occurs. In the Indonesian context, there is a successful mediation and discursive practices that render internationalisation acceptable, while rejecting privatisation.

Rather than assuming internationalisation as either a natural desideratum of HE reform or as a new form of imperialism, my paper argues that internationalisation is a constitutive feature for the reconfiguration of contemporary HE sector in a complex world that cannot be reduced to market. In addition, it is not enough to consider processes alone as though they exist of themselves without any agency. Internationalisation can therefore be understood as "an emergent political project that is imagined, discussed and acted out by university administrators to each other as well as other agents in and beyond the university" (Tadaki & Tremewan, 2013, p. 371).

Drawing from a two-year field study of internationalisation of three Indonesian HE institutions (top, middle and low tier universities), interviews with key correspondents in the sector (Rectors, Deans, Heads of International Offices and key person in the HE Ministry), and an analysis of related policies, I analyse why internationalisation is accepted. There are three significant forces that have contributed to the acceptance of the internationalisation: a profound shift in knowledge from 'priceless' to 'priced', contradictory understanding on internationalisation and the agents mediating the process. The discussion suggests that the key of the reshaping is located within the human agency. It is the local agents who are able to make possible changes of higher education structures through the choices and decisions they make which are observable from the discourses and discursive practices around them.