Indonesia backs down on tuition fee increases

Some students saw their university fees triple as the government attempted to lift the benchmark for the first time in five years

June 5, 2024
People celebrate their education graduation.
Source: iStock/Samsul

The Indonesian government has reversed course on a plan to raise university tuition fees after consulting with vice-chancellors.

In Indonesia, university fees are based on a benchmark set by the government and are means-tested, meaning the poorest students pay the least. Plans to increase single tuition fees, also known as UKT, were announced in January. 

However, the minister for education, culture, research and technology, Nadiem Anwar Makarim, has now confirmed that fees will not be hiked for the 2024/25 academic year following an outcry from students. According to local media, some prospective students began to withdraw their university applications after the proposals, while others protested on the streets. 

“Thank you for the constructive advice given by various parties,” the minister said. “I do listen to the aspirations of the students, families and the public.”

Despite the U-turn, calls to review the funding system have persisted from both students and universities. The minister hinted that changes may be coming but stopped short of sharing further details. 

“I had a meeting with Mr President to discuss various things in the education sector, including single tuition fees,” he said. “I have proposed some approaches to address the issues faced by the students.”

The issue was simultaneously investigated by a commission set up by the House of Representatives. One student leader told the inquiry that fees at Jendral Soediram University in Central Java had tripled, with students paying up to Rp 14 million (£685) per semester. 

The minister was subsequently summoned by the commission to discuss the issue of rising fees. 

However, many universities say they need additional money to function. In a statement, the ministry clarified that the benchmark had not been updated since 2019 and that some universities had not adjusted their fees in that time, causing an “extreme increase” at some institutions. It added that adjustments to this were partially based on the greater need for technology at universities. 

“In the near future, [the] Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology will re-evaluate single tuition fees proposals coming from all state universities,” Mr Makarim said. 

The government also said that there is “a misconception” that the highest fee group applies to all students, when only 3.7 per cent of students fall into this category.

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