Indonesia's university rectors have responded to a cut in government subsidies by introducing upfront admission fees and moving to replace the national higher education entrance examinations.
The initiative has the support of the rectors of all the country's top higher education institutions, including the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, the Gajah Madah University in Jogjakarta, the Institute of Technology in Bandung (ITB) and the Bogor Institute of Agriculture in West Java.
The new annual fees range from Rp5 million (£380) to Rp150 million.
The rectors said they had no alternative but to drastically raise charges after the International Monetary Fund pressured the government to cut subsidies.
Kusmayanto Kadiman, rector of the ITB, told a parliamentary commission on education that the institute was providing individual students with subsidies of up to Rp10 million a year. Ideally, he said, a student should pay an annual fee of Rp18 million. ITB has started a special enrolment scheme for students who can afford an upfront registration fee of between Rp45 million and Rp150 million. Those willing to pay will not sit entrance exams. The money collected in this way would be used to subsidise less well-off students.
But Usman Chatib Warsa, rector of the University of Indonesia, said that only 13 per cent of its places would be allocated through the new admissions programme.
The ministry of national education has said that an audit council will monitor the use of fees in each of the state universities.
Student protesters in Bandung said the fees would further restrict access to higher education for students from lower-income families, limiting it to those from middle-class backgrounds.
Leading education reformer Mochtar Buchori argued that Indonesia should allocate a larger budget to education, which suffers at all levels from underfunding, including poor salaries for lecturers.