Interview

Prof. Dr. Arif Satria, SP, MSi

Rector of IPB University (Bogor Agricultural University)

From 2008 to 2018, IPB has produced 49 of the 1,155 innovations with the most potential in Indonesia. This makes us the most innovative campus for many years.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: In your view, how has higher education in Indonesia evolved since the last five years?

PROF. ARIEF: Since the last five years, our higher education has seen good development because the government has been promoting higher education in Indonesia on an international level. For example, our higher education ministry, now known as the Ministry of Research and Technology, always encourages all universities in Indonesia to have international publications, to get involved in international organizations, and to increase the university ranking in QS and THE (Times Higher Education).

At the moment, IPB is ranked 74 in the Top 100 Universities by QS – the only university in Indonesia that has made the cut.

The government is now working on changing the policy to promote higher education not only for international ranking, but to also strengthen human capital. In fact, when I met our Minister of Education and Culture, Nadiem Makarim, I asked him about his thoughts on university ranking. He replied that the rankings are important, but it is not his top priority. I have a different view – sure, nobody likes rankings, but everyone pays attention to it, so we need to put more focus on this.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: How does IPB University keeps up with new developments in the higher education sector?

PROF. ARIEF: In 2005, we developed the major/minor curriculum, which gives students the flexibility to take up a minor from other supporting programs. Now, we are developing a new curriculum, Curriculum 2020.

Before I explain further, let me provide some context. In my first year as the university’s rector, my priority was to prepare the curriculum to respond to new opportunities and challenges in the advent of the 4th Industrial Revolution. This is a new era that is not only about digital technologies or the Internet of Things (IOT), but also demands different skillsets and qualifications. We identified the skills that our graduates need to develop for the 4th Industrial Revolution, such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity.

Thus, we designed a new curriculum that is integrated with extracurricular activities. This is a departure from our usual practice of separating academic courses from extracurricular activities, like, say, student union, photography, sports and so on. But now, we unite both under the same package to put equal focus in both imparting knowledge and building character.

One important note about the new curriculum is that, unlike the past practice of dividing students by academic scores, we have initiated a new system that divides students based on leadership skills. For example, we invite the chairpersons or ex-chairpersons of student unions in high schools to enter IPB. Academic scores are still part of the criteria, of course, but the most important factors we look at are good leadership and the ability to think out of the box – which are the key characteristics of student union chairpersons. Someday, I believe, they will be national leaders. Hence, I want to prepare them on the path to excellence by recruiting them now.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: The corporate world is undergoing rapid changes due to aggressive adoption of new technologies. Hence, it is difficult to anticipate the trends of various industries and equip students with the necessary skills. This results in a gap in graduates’ job-readiness. How does IPB cope with this gap and align graduates’ skills and expectations with industry needs?

PROF. ARIEF: Upon entering IPB, our students go through a talent mapping program that we have developed. In talent mapping, we can identify the interest and personality of the students, and prepare them adequately. For example, for students keen on business and have the patience for it, we would encourage them to join our start-up schools. Similarly, students who have interests in becoming bureaucrats or researchers, and have demonstrated the character suitable for these professions, would be put into programs that help them achieve their full potential.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: IPB University is now a state-owned university, which, by law, implies that you have to do research development and commercialization. Can you please elaborate on that?

PROF. ARIEF: Through our research, we have developed a range of food products, such as artificial rice made from corn, or from cassava, as well as spinach noodles, carrot noodles and so on. As for commercialization, we are selling our products under the IPB branding in 15 outlets in 15 shopping malls. Next month, we will also be opening a new outlet at the Terminal 3 of the Jakarta International Airport.

Besides that, we are even retailing through our app platform, which features around 500 innovations from IPB.

These innovations come from our collaboration with farmers. IPB provides seeds to the farmers and educates them on how to cultivate them. Then, the farmers sell their produce to IPB, which will handle the distribution to the supermarkets. This opens up the market that farmers in Indonesia can sell to. We also teach the farmers to invest in more capacity to make products that fulfill the entire supply chain. Moreover, we pay farmers one week after delivery at a price higher than the market rate, so farmers are guaranteed a fair price.

In fact, some country leaders are visiting us to learn more about our program. They include the President of Namibia, the Deputy Prime Minister of Holland, and many other international ministers.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: Last year, IPB is ranked 3rd in the list of Indonesian Best Public Universities, released by the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education of the Republic of Indonesia. Do you think university rankings tell the full story about IPB and other tertiary education institutions?

PROF. ARIEF: No, it doesn’t. QS university rankings, for one, do not consider the impact of a university’s public outreach. Not a single criteria evaluates innovation too.

From 2008 to 2018, IPB has produced 49 of the 1,155 innovations with the most potential in Indonesia. This makes us the most innovative campus for many years. Just look at our many awards in this area. We even have an incubator business, we have 200 tenants, all innovation.

Hence, we refer to the Times Higher Education (THE) ranking system, because it looks at these factors.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: Would you be open to international partnerships?

PROF. ARIEF: Yes, of course. We are now still in the process of developing wealth based on wuhaning univeristy, which is one of the best fashion universities in the world. Last year, the president of Wuhaning University came to IPB, and one of the matters we discussed was to increase innovation capacity.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: Does IPB have any unique approach in its efforts to be an environmentally-friendly university?

PROF. ARIEF: Of course! We focus on the coverage of green areas on campus. IPB has been ranked as the 40th the most sustainable university in the world. In Indonesia, we are ranked 2nd.

We put a lot of effort in green education, not only in mobilizing daily campaigns but also in our courses (such as human ecology and environmental policy). In IPB, we have also developed an eco-friendly waste management system, which processes waste to produce fertilizer, compost and bio-gas. On top of that, we organize a green fashion festival to encourage making fashion from recyclables.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: Since your appointment at the end of 2017, what has been your biggest challenges and achievements in the university?

PROF. ARIEF: My proudest achievement is leading IPB to become one of the most progressive institution in Indonesia in responding to the 4th Industrial Revolution. I created blueprint documents to lay out how we can address IR4.0 in various industries, such as agriculture and maritime. This has become the roadmap for research among faculty members. This year, all research in our university has to comply with the roadmap.

Our new curriculum is also evolving. In the past, all students had to prepare an individual academic thesis to obtain the undergraduate diploma. But now, we allow more options – students can produce a thesis based on research, or a report from their internship experiences, or even conduct a final project by collaborating in a group. For example, agronomists need to bring together IT, engineering and robotics skills in their field, hence collaboration is very important.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: More students are open to the idea of studying in Southeast Asia. How can Indonesia attract these students?

PROF. ARIEF: We need to promote Indonesian culture, especially our multiculturalism. We also have to encourage our students to be more open and outward-looking when it comes to interacting with their international peers. Last year, the government even tried to invite foreign academicians to be rectors in Indonesia. For me, there is no problem with that. In fact, the more open we are, the faster we can improve the international standing of our higher education institutions.