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Studying Abroad : 7 Main Reasons Why Indonesians Are Applying Elsewhere

During 2018/2019, the US Commercial Service projected over 69.000 Indonesian students who are pursuing their higher education abroad. About 9.130 of them chose America as their pedagogical destination, while others are concentrated in multiple foreign countries. The overall number of Indonesian students seeking higher-degree abroad is shown to consistently increase annually, with another data cited a rate of 1.4% growth from 2017-2018.

The same report also outlined that 95% of Indonesians studying abroad are self-funded as they finance their education privately, whether from parental financial support or overseas relatives. Only 5% of the students are financed by grants, scholarships, or other fundings as facilitated by universities, companies, government, or others. 


This begs the question of why. And more importantly, will the trend sustain? In the wake of the pandemic, are we looking at a steadily rising number of Indonesian students who prefer to study abroad instead of staying put? And if so, is this a good sign? Let’s dive into the main reasons behind their decisions. 


1. The unique population status


As the 4th most populous country in the world, Indonesia is also by far the largest student age population in the ASEAN. With the majority of the population under the age of 25, Indonesia holds one of the largest university-age candidates making it a substantial pool of potential international students. 


In addition to the number of the ideal age group, Indonesia also comes from a very strong democratic background. As such, this has been a significant driving force for the youth to take more aggressive decisions in the pursuit of different exposure to education. 

2. Strong demand for skilled labor


The demand for higher education highlights the fact that there is a severe skilled labor shortage in Indonesia. A 2014 World Bank Policy Brief found that despite a doubling of the number of workers who have at least some tertiary education between 2000 and 2010, still, only 8% of workers possessed a tertiary degree, far short of the 21 percent demanded by the labor market. 


This unfulfilled demand is likely to yield increases in tertiary enrollment rates in the long term. Already, between 2006 and 2016, total enrollment grew by 68 %, from nearly 3.7 million to more than 6.1 million. If you are one of the students who are looking to gain from the lack of skilled labor, studying abroad will solidify your standing in terms of higher salary and benefits.


3. Rising demand for higher education


Not only is there a lack of skilled workforce, but there is also a rising demand for a higher quality education that is presently not met by supply in Indonesia. Data released from QS World University Rankings 2022 listed Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) at 254th position among 1.300 other world universities, while other universities such as UI and ITB also placed at near 300th ranks. 


While Indonesia has continued to improve over the years, this has paled in comparison to neighboring countries such as the National University of Singapore(NUS) which takes 11th place followed by Nanyang Technological University at 12th. Hence, degree-seeking Indonesian students are likely to shop around for choices instead of staying put. 


4. Lucrative close destinations



The top three destination countries for Indonesian degree-seeking students enrolled overseas are Australia, the U.S, and Malaysia. It’s also interesting to note that China is also surging in popularity and may now attract more Indonesian students than Malaysia.


With the gap between countries closing in via technologies and digital advancements, Indonesian students will likely opt to study abroad especially in closer-to-home destinations such as Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore. 


5. Pricing is a defining factor


Indonesians are price sensitive and motivated by the affordability of school fees. The notion that studying abroad is equal to more expensive spending is factual, however, it is also important to note that studying at local universities can also be costly. At some of Indonesia’s local private universities, the cost from admission to graduation may cause up to IDR 600 million or equal to around USD 40.000. 


Compared to an average of USD 7.000/ year at a public university in Singapore, students may be looking at a different quality education altogether in compensation for a few extra payments. As calculation goes, this is something to look into and a major defining factor for students planning to study abroad. 


6. Relative support or recommendations 


When it comes to studying abroad, having family support in the preferred destination is also a key factor. Up to 81% of respondents regarded relative support as one of the biggest motivations to study abroad while 82% are convinced through school recommendations, a friend’s referral as well as their families in Indonesia. 


7. The Gen Z & Alphas Perspectives


Studying abroad indeed offers you exposure to different values, cultures, and experiences. It has been the case since generations ago, and it looks like the next generation of Gen Z is no different. 


Studies have shown that Generation Z and the Alphas consider themselves to be game-changer of society. They are keen on digital developments and are even thirstier at a change of new landscape compared to their previous generations. 


As the next generation of youth, they are more adept at changes, open to new possibilities and changing environments. So when it comes to pursuing higher education abroad, they’d be quick to jump on the opportunities, especially when provided with the right support. 


As far as the trend goes, the market is hopeful to have Indonesia as one of the top contributors of the university age group in the global education scene. The pandemic has somewhat caused plenty of changes in a student’s education trajectory with 52.2% reported a delay in decision. The availability of hybrid-learning methods has also allowed students to continue pursuing an education degree in their hometown. 


However, this is certainly a different experience altogether compared to living and studying abroad as a growing individual. Up to 47.2% expect to resume studies later and the decision to study abroad may pick back up once the pandemic subsides. 


If you are an Indonesian looking for more information on studying abroad or marketing at any university/college trying to tap into the great potential of the Indonesian student market, contact UNIO today!




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