Universitas Esa Unggul and Arizona State University Alliance, ASEAN’s Asset for Enhancing Higher Education

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By Hafid Abbas

International Consultant at SEAMEO RETRAC, Ho Chi Minh, 2014

For the first time, on May 31, 2022, Universitas Esa Unggul (UEU), one of Indonesia’s 4593 universities, formally announced a long-term strategic relationship with Arizona State University (ASU) Cintana to elevate its position to become a reputable university in the world.

UEU is strengthened by this alliance with ASU as the most innovative university in the US. In the last seven years, ASU has outpaced MIT and Stanford (US News and World Report 2016–2022) and is ranked among the top ten universities in the world for research and teaching (Times Higher Education, 2018). Currently, UEU has access to all the advantages possessed by ASU, such as university governance expertise, digital learning technology, intellectual property rights, services, innovation, joint research, curriculum, mobility of students and lecturers, and so on.

Similarly, Cintana’s support, led by Douglas Becker and his team, seems to be capable of elevating UEU as a university from the 14th highest rating in Indonesia (Webometric 2021) to a world-class university. Laureate Education, which previously had Beeker as its founder and CEO, has evolved to become one of the world’s largest university networks, with over one million students studying on more than 200 campuses in 28 countries. With ASU-Cintana, the network is expected to grow even further in the near future.

Furthermore, ASU-Cintana has extensive experience in pioneering, maintaining, and managing medical education in diverse parts of the world. While still at Laureate, the ASU-Cintana team, led by Harvard University Professor Francisco Gutierrez, innovatively established Laureate as the world’s largest and leading network of medical and health science professional education, with over 250,000 students spread across 40 degree programs and expertise or specialization. These are distributed throughout 18 countries, 37 universities, and 158 campuses.

Now, Gutierrez, a leading scientist and architect of medical education advancement in the twenty-first century, and his team have visited Indonesia and met with the Directorate General of Higher Education, the Directorate General of Health Services of the Ministry of Health, and the Indonesian Medical Council to discuss the promotion of medical education and health professions in Indonesia.

Although it does not yet have a Faculty of Medicine, UEU, which is powered by ASU-Cintana, appears to be capable of making this university a leader in medical and health education in Indonesia in the future; 11 of its 35 study programs are dedicated to health education.

ASU-Cintana, which cooperates with UEU in the long term, will not only increase its scale and number of students and academic staff but will also improve its quality to become a world-class university. For example, its experience in alliance with the Universidad de Valle de Mexico (UVM) from 2002 with a student population of 35,000 could be increased to 120,000, and at the same time made UVM a top 10 ranked university among hundreds of universities in the country.

In every collaboration, ASU-Cintana, with partner universities, always encourages its internal strengths and advantages with the support of all elements of its community. ASU-Cintana will always be present to provide innovative added value in every line of the university’s tri-dharma life, including curriculum development, lecturers, researchers, infrastructure, study programs, community service, and other necessary resources.

The presence of ASU-Cintana at UEU is a unique model of cooperation not only in Indonesia but also for the ASEAN region. This alliance model can provide added value as a new asset for the existing higher education cooperation development model in ASEAN today.

First, ASEAN has developed the ASEAN University Network (AUN) as a forum for cooperation and a network of universities in Asia. The forum was founded in November 1995 by ASEAN member countries, involving 13 universities (https://www.aunsec.org/). This AUN model offers various student and lecturer exchange programs, scholarships, ASEAN studies, research collaborations and information exchange, etc.

The AUN secretariat is located at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, adjacent to the ASEAN secretariat office to facilitate coordination with its activities in ASEAN member countries.

Second, ASEAN has officially established the Regional Center for Higher Education Development (RIHED) in 1993, at its 26th SEAMEO Conference. The center aims to advance the harmonization of the higher education in Southeast Asia (https://www. rihed.seameo.org).

RIHED has a priority agenda in the areas of: university governance, leadership and higher education; ASEAN Quality Assurance Framework and core curriculum development; Credit transfer system and diploma supplement; mobility of students and lecturers; e-Learning and mobile learning; and research interest groupings.

To support the implementation of the strategic agenda, RIHED established the Asian International Mobility for Students (AIMS) in 2010 as a pilot project initiated by Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. The AIMS program has shown rapid progress in the last decade and is currently being followed by nine countries, 78 universities, offering one-semester undergraduate student exchange for 10 study programs. Since 2010, this program has been attended by more than 5,000 AIMS students.

Third, to support the implementation of  Merdeka Campus policy, the UEU-ASU Cintana alliance seems to be able to strengthen and support UEU in implementing this policy by involving 16,000 students to attend three-semester lectures at any university in the ASU-Cintana network of around 200 campuses spread across the world.

The UEU-ASU Cintana Alliance in the Merdeka Campus policy platform can share experiences and advantages with all universities in Indonesia or within ASEAN. The approach is similar to implementation Bologna Process in Europe.

Bologna Process brings all universities in Europe in a more coherent management system that facilitates the mobility of lecturers and students interacting in carrying out their tri-dharma activities without rigid barriers, so that all universities are more inclusive, more open, thus making European universities more attractive and more competitive in the world.

Lastly, the EUU-ASU Cintana alliance within the framework of the Merdeka Campus policy is truly a historic step in the midst of the ASEAN process moving to a single community of nations politically, economically, and socio-culturally which is similar to European Union community today.

At the 12th ASEAN Summit in January 2007, in Cebu, the Philippines, ASEAN leaders reaffirmed their commitment to accelerate the realization of a single ASEAN community politically, economically and socio-culturally in 2015. Then at the 27th ASEAN Summit Kuala Lumpur, in 22 Nov. 2015, ASEAN adopted the ASEAN Single Community Vision 2025, and proclaimed the realization of a rules-based, people-centred community area with One Vision, One Identity and One Community.

Hopefully, the UEU-ASU Cintana cooperation will benefit all universities throughout ten ASEAN member nations, totaling 7446 institutions (ASEAN, 2021), as one of the regional assets toward the accomplishment of the ASEAN initiative that was declared at its 27th summit.

The Bangkok Declaration, which established ASEAN, was signed on August 8, 1967. One of the seven aims of ASEAN’s establishment, as stated in the Bangkok Declaration, is to promote education in Southeast Asia. After 55 years of journey, ASEAN now has one more new asset, namely the UEU-ASU Cintana Alliance, which may collaborate synergistically with AUN, RIHED, to develop ASEAN’s human resources in the pursuit of a single ASEAN community by 2030.

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