‘Now the world gets to know what happens in Indonesia’

After four years of close collaboration with Dutch universities, Universitas Indonesia in Jakarta has significantly modernised its education and research.
Posted by Nuffic

With increased capacity, interactive teaching, enriched courses, and improved research-writing skills, Universitas Indonesia stands ready to thrive in a globalised and digitalised world. The bilateral relationship between the Netherlands and Indonesia is transitioning ‘from aid to trade’. As Indonesia works hard to become more attractive to foreign investors, it recognises that corruption and money laundering are challenges that have to be dealt with.


Universitas Indonesia collaborated with the Vrije Universiteit (Amsterdam) and Leiden University’s Van Vollenhoven Institute, in proposing a four year project, focused on building their capacity at the institute’s Faculty of Law – and on the subjects of Transnational Law, Asset Recovery, and International Investment Arbitration in particular.

The Dutch government’s development cooperation policy includes education development to further enhance social and economic growth. Nuffic has been managing education and training development programmes for the government for decades, currently with the Orange Knowledge Programme. “Our programmes offer great opportunities for strengthening the education systems needed in these emerging countries”, explains Marieke Nieuwendijk, programme manager at Nuffic.


The project, ‘Capacity Development of Transnational Law’ (or CAPDEV-TL), was awarded by Nuffic, and set out in 2015 to strengthen the university’s structures, deliver well-trained graduates, improve academic output and modernise its teaching methods.

For Ms. Tiurma Allagan and Mr. Arie Afriansyah, senior lecturers at the Faculty of Law, working with these Dutch partners for the past four years has been quite an experience. They not only went to visit the Netherlands several times to exchange knowledge with their counterparts, a number of their colleagues transferred to Dutch universities to finish their Masters or PhD’s, and bring their newly-gained insights and expertise back to Jakarta. In addition, Tiurma and Arie, along with colleagues from other faculties, received intensive training in Indonesia from Dutch partners.

Because of the project ending this December, both lecturers visited Nuffic’s headquarters in The Hague, to evaluate the project with Esther den Hartog (Vrije Universiteit), Adriaan Bedner (Leiden University) and Marieke Nieuwendijk (Nuffic).

More interactive

In four years, a lot at Arie and Tiurma’s faculty has changed, their own teaching included. “We were used to giving one-way lectures, without any discussions or questions”, Arie says. In workshops they learned how to apply different teaching methodologies. Tiurma: “We are no longer the only ones preparing for class. We let students read up on law cases beforehand and have them present them during class.”

"Students speak up more, while there used to be utter silence."

- Tiurma Allagan, senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Universitas Indonesia

Technology now also plays a more prominent role at the university. This varies from more advanced PowerPoint presentations to the use of digital tools in class. Because the department of Transnational Law is currently understaffed, managing big classes (600 students) is a challenge. Lecturers started using big-class management tools like the MentiMeter app. “Before, everybody had to store their smartphones. Now they have to take them out”, Tiurma says, laughing.

As a result of more interactive teaching, students are much more engaged with the subject, surveys show. “Students speak up more, while there used to be utter silence.” Through after-class discussions between staff and by actively passing along knowledge to new colleagues, these new methodologies are being embedded within the organisation. Arie and Tiurma hope to apply even more interactive teaching methods once their classes return to their normal size of about 200.

Updated courses

In collaboration with the Dutch partners, extensive work was done on the faculty’s dated curriculum and materials. The faculty introduced multiple choice in exams (in addition to the traditional essay writing exams), it purchased new books, and subscribed to international caselaw databases and law reports. “We used to have a lack of access to, and limited knowledge about, the latest international developments. Now we know a lot more about what is taking place out there.”

Students will also have more freedom, as the amount of faculty-mandated courses will drop in favour of more student choice. “It will be less of a straitjacket”, says Adriaan Bedner of Leiden University.


Staff members had plenty of opportunities to work on their own personal development as well, which in the end will enhance the university’s standing. In order for a university to become internationally recognised, its staff must publish internationally and promote the institution. A lot of research was already conducted at the institution. “But when it came to publishing… we just lack the knowledge on international standards”, Arie admits. “Sometimes papers were denied because of subpar English language quality, other times because the publisher didn’t immediately see the relevance of the subject for an international audience.”

Arie has published on hot topics like migration and refugees

After several workshops and peer reviews with Leiden University and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, in which staff from other departments within the Faculty of Law joined as well, the quality of the papers has improved – and the world is noticing. Arie has published on hot topics like migration and refugees in scientific magazines, as well as in the Jakarta Post. As a result, he has been interviewed as an expert on the topic by renowned media like CNN. Arie: “Now the world gets to know what happens in Indonesia. Learning from Indonesian-Australian migrant challenges can be interesting for Europe as well.”

For her part, Tiurma has seen her research on international marriages being used as input for Private International Law legislation by the Indonesian government. To further broaden their international outlook, staff members are completing residencies at international organisations which are relevant for International Law, such as at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the European Union.

Centres of Excellence

Also in Jakarta, two ‘Centres of Excellence’ were created, that bring together Indonesian experts, officials and practitioners in the areas of Asset Recovery and International Investment Arbitration. To ensure its long term sustainability, these online platforms were integrated with existing centres at Universitas Indonesia. “We are going to maintain it and be pro-active in our dealings with our government”, Tiurma says.

The Centres of Excellence are illustrative for the fruitful collaboration between the Netherlands and Indonesia over the past few years, according to Esther den Hartog. “With its funding for this project and the Centres of Excellence, the Dutch government is making a long term investment. Not just in the Faculty of Law, but in the university at large, and in Indonesia as a nation.”

Arie and Tiurma were more than happy to be part of it. Arie: “Once our staff members finish their Masters and PhD’s in the Netherlands, we’re back at full strength, with more knowledge and tools than before, as well as a brand-new curriculum. We will be future proof.”

Lessons learned

With each project come challenges. We ask Esther den Hartog (Vrije Universiteit) and Arie Afriansyah (Universitas Indonesia) about the three biggest challenges they encountered.

  • “UI is keen on having more international publications, but the reality is that staff are fully occupied with teaching obligations”, Esther says. The institute did not yet create HR conditions which support research writing. “In the end we could only address this by inviting staff to spend a month in the Netherlands to create quiet writing time.”
  • Despite the investments made in the Master studies of two junior staff members, they decided to resign from their jobs at UI after completion of their studies. “Unfortunately, we learned the hard way how important it is to sign bonding agreements with staff to ensure that they remain in their jobs after graduation”, according to Arie.
  • One of the key pillars of Nuffic is to address ‘gender’ in projects. For example, staff members were encouraged to apply a gender lens to their research, something not yet very common in Indonesia. We therefore first needed to sensitise staff on the concept of ‘gender’. As a result, in his research on migration from Myanmar to Australia, Arie Afriansyah took a look at the role smuggler’s wives play in the smuggling of migrants. “In Indonesia, we are not used to applying a gender lens to research. For me it was very challenging, but we are learning!”

Did you like this article?

Subscribe to the monthly newsletter of the Orange Knowledge Programme. It is a mix of interviews, news articles, blogs and videos. We will update you on programme results, call schedules, deadlines and general programme news. And we will also share stories on specific projects, best practices and lessons learned.