The Race to Become a World Class University
As a country advances in terms of social, economic and technological
development, it is pertinent to raise its various industries to a
'world-class' level. One of the industries referred to is education,
comprising state-owned and private higher educational institutions.
In the race to become a so called world-class university, unfortunately, few attempts have been done so far to clearly define the term 'world-class' itself. What defines a world-class university? What characteristics make up a world-class university? Is the term 'world-class' only some kind of public relation attempts? Therefore, since there is no clear definition concerning the terminology, many state-owned and private universities claim themselves to be of world-class standard.
World Class is defined by the dictionary as 'ranking among the foremost in the world; of an international standard of excellence'. Based on that definition, clearly a world-class university must be one that is legally listed on some agreed-upon world ranks. The problem is, who is credible enough to make that ranks?
A research conducted by Henry M. Levin, Dong Wook Jeong, Dongshu Ou from Columbia University on two international universities, the Shanghai Jiaotong University (SJU) and the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES), suggest each applies different criteria. This explains why Columbia University is ranked differently.
In the end, the question remains: what is a ‘world-class university’? Perhaps an attempt to define the terminology requires collecting some definitions from experts in order to better understand it as a whole.
Niland (2001) argued, "For universities, world-class standing is built on reputation and perception often seen as subjective and uncertain - and it requires outstanding performance in many events." Clearly, based on Niland's point of view, world-class is a matter of reputation and perception in the minds of global societies. Further, he said, "The title of world class won’t come at a discount price, and without world-class funding the goal of reaching, and preserving, that high standard will be rhetoric alone."
Hobbs (1997) argued, "If a university wishes to attain world-class status, its faculty and students must understand the divergent cultures that inhabit the world." Meanwhile, Wang (2001) argued, "World class universities recruit first-rate professors and enroll students from throughout the world." And finally, King (2003) asserted, "We are world class in that we have students from all over the world and, importantly, we have partnerships with universities, colleges and businesses all over the world." From the three arguments, we can imply that an internationalization process must occur in universities that claim to be world-class universities. That is why overseas students, a multicutural environment and colaboration with international organizations must be some of the essential elements that make up world-class universities.
The Asian Development Bank (2001) argued that "Most graduates are ill-equipped to work in a market economy which requires skills in interpreting and applying information." The statement implies that 'practical skills', apart from 'theoretical skills', is one of the key elements to a world class uiversity's graduates. Min in Jiang (2011) seemed to adhere to ADB's definition by stating, "Although [research] is integral to the perception of being deemed a world-class institution, the true measurements is in the success of a university’s graduates."
Lastly, Nilan (2000), Liverpool (1995), and Waner (2005) agreed that a world-class university is "utilizing information technology" by making information pertaining to the university (academic, admission, tuition, event, etc) accessible to internal and external parties all over the world.
President University, as one of Indonesia's prestigious private higher educational institutions, attempts to become a world-class university by 2017. In doing so, the University recruits students from all over the world to study in Indonesia. The majority of its international admissions every year come from Asia, namely China, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, India and many others.
No distinct treatment is made between local and overseas students, hence communication becomes a crucial factor in President University. English is used in daily conversation and cultural tolerance is nicely embedded in most of the subjects taught in the University.
Apart from recruiting international students, which now make up 30% of President University’s students every year, the University also actively collaborates with other higher educational intitutions all over the world such as Waseda University of Japan, Deakin University of Australia, Guang Xi University of China, ULSA University of Vietnam, International Pacific College of New Zealand and many more.
President University’s official website is quite sophisticated in the sense that all students from all over the world can find complete information about the University, register online, download brochures, check their placement test scores, and see the University's environment in 3D from their home. The last feature is hardly found in other local universities' websites.
What makes President University unique is not just the fact that the University has an international atmosphere or that it supports digital access to make learning activities interesting, but the fact that two semesters (ranging from 8-12 months) out of 10 semesters studying program are designed to pursue practical skills and learning experiences in 1,500 of its affiliates. It is noteworthy that all students could complete their studies plus some practical skills within three-year and four month programs. Suffice to say, President University guarantees its graduates employment within six months after their graduation ceremony.
By Jhanghiz Syahrivar is a Senior Education Consultant and an Assistant to Lecturer of Faculty of Economics, President University.