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July 2008

Just winding up a couple of days of official visits to Jakarta. Sounds exciting not, but actually turned out to be quite extraordinary. The University of Sydney has really embraced Indonesia in a big way. Our delegation was made up of 25 academics and support staff, including a swag of Deans. What was impressive to the Indonesians was that 7 of us are fluent Indonesian speakers (and not just Michele Ford and I from Arts, but from almost all the faculties). Our Symposium on Thursday involved participation from 5 Rektors of the top universities (we think this is a first, since you usually don't get Rektors together, let alone talking for a whole afternoon about research and collaboration with Australian universities). It was opened by the Minister for Education, with prior meetings with the Minister for Research and Technology, and participation from high-level officials from their offices. We spent yesterday morning at UI working on specific programs. Sydney has announced that we will put up more for scholarships from Indonesia, and we're looking to open an office.

A couple of crucial issues of getting the exchange working came up in the Symposium, since the Minister raised the inequality in exchanges: there are 17,000 Indonesian students studying in Australia, but only 60 Australian students in Indonesia. David Reeve gave an elegant summary of the problems that lead to this on both sides, including of course the insane Australian travel warning. On the Indonesian side, there is the bureaucratic process of getting visas (as David said, if you want students to come from Australia you need to actually let them in the country). Study visas take 3 months, a lot of expense and a lot of hassle reporting in and out. I also raised with the people from Ristek the issue of research visas.

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