Indonesian dean ‘axed for criticising government’ reinstated

University leaders U-turn on controversial decision to fire professor that sparked academic freedom row

July 9, 2024
ASEEC Tower Airlangga University, a blue and gold tall building seen from below with clear sky.
Source: iStock/Rifda Alda Ufaira

A leading Indonesian university has reinstated the dean of its medical faculty after firing him earlier this month, reportedly for speaking out against the government. 

Budi Santoso, dean of the medical school at Universitas Airlangga (Unair), a public institution in East Java, spoke to media outlets in June about a government policy allowing more foreign doctors to work in the country to make up for medical staff shortages. 

He said that he did not agree with the decision because Indonesia’s medical schools were producing graduates of the same quality as other countries. 

Indonesian press reported that Professor Budi was summoned to speak to the university’s rector shortly after making the statement, where he was then fired.

“The rector and I have a different opinion [regarding the foreign doctor plan]. I was declared to have a different stance, then I accepted the rector’s decision,” Professor Budi told local media. 

On 9 July, Unair’s chancellor confirmed that the professor’s position had been reinstated, following an outcry from academics. Legal scholars including Aan Eko Widiarto, dean of the faculty of law at Brawijaya University, had accused the university of violating the professor’s right to academic freedom, The Jakarta Post reported

“It is wrong to interpret [Professor Budi’s] thoughts and opinions as opposition to the leadership,” Dr Aan and his colleagues wrote in a public statement.

Unair previously denied that he had been fired because of his comments, while Indonesia’s health minister, Budi Gunadi Sadikin, tried to distance the government from the incident. 

“We also have no idea what considerations were taken that led to the dismissal. I also do not have direct communication with the rector,” he said. 

The university’s rector, Surabaya Nasih, said the reappointment was made after reviewing a letter from Professor Budi objecting to the university’s decision. 

While Professor Budi is set to return to work immediately, the incident has sparked a debate about academic freedom in Indonesia, which some argue has been declining in recent years. 

In 2022, Scholars at Risk and the Indonesian Caucus for Academic Freedom warned about the “troubling conditions” within the country

“Scholars have suffered prosecution, criminal investigations, lawsuits, and violent threats for their opinions and work,” the groups wrote in a report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council. “The state of academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and related values should be of great concern to Indonesia’s government and society at large.”

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles