A senior official at the Ministry of National Education said on Wednesday that Semarang’s Diponegoro University would do well to reconsider its decision to stop admitting Malaysian students in a fit of nationalism.
Hendarman, the ministry’s director of institutional affairs, said the Central Java university, which is better known as Undip, should bear in mind both the positive and negative outcomes of the policy that it announced on Tuesday.
The university said it was taking direct action in response to strained relations between Malaysia and Indonesia, most recently an allegation that Malaysia was attempting to lay claim to a traditional Indonesian dance.
Susilo Wibowo, the university’s rector, said that Malaysia had often, and in various ways, insulted Indonesia’s national pride.
He said that existing cooperation programs with Malaysian organizations would continue until they expired, but that Malaysian students would not be admitted after the current acadeic year.
The action, the rector said, is an expression of “nationalism.”
Hendarman said “having international students enrol at a campus is a plus point, especially for a university aiming to get world-class status.”
“I believe Undip has this goal,” he said. “But it is indeed the campus’s right, their autonomy, to decide the policy.”
While acknowledging that Undip was within its rights in enacting this policy, Hendarman said it was unfair for any university to prevent students, including those from overseas, from studying at the campus of their preference.
“And whether or not the action is actually going to solve the problem [of international tension] is another matter,” he said, adding that the ministry had for years tried to build good relationships with its counterparts in Malaysia. “It is better for Undip to reconsider the decision,” he said. “The total number of foreign students studying in the university is a plus point.”
Meanwhile, other universities that also have Malaysian students indicated on Wednesday they had no changes planned.
Fasich, the rector of Airlangga University in Surabaya, East Java, said his university would still enroll Malaysians.
“I don’t think it should affect the education sector,” he said, referring to the diplomatic tensions.
“As long as the government does not give any signs that we should stop admitting Malaysian students, we will accept them.”
Suryo Baskoro, a spokesman for Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada Universitysaid, said his university had no issue with Malaysian students and “there will be no ban” on them.
The Undip action was sparked by claims that Malaysia had used a clip of a traditional Balinese dance in a tourist advertisement. It has since been revealed that the clip came from a promo for an upcoming show on the Discovery television channel, not a Malaysia tourism ad.