Apart from the prerogative right of President to appoint the supporting ministers, there have been quite a stir among higher education institutions in the last two days. The policy maker role of education who is usually taken by academics (and rector), is filled by external talent. The President, of course, has its own considerations, such as the creation of employment opportunities and links and matches that are felt to be quite weak with existing industries. It is evidenced by the high proportion of educated unemployment in Indonesia.
This piece does not highlight that topic, but the question arose from the academicians was on how many academics from their universities were picked as ministers?
In other countries, it is very common that prestige and reputation of a university determined from how many of their graduates have become public leaders, such as president, prime minister or ministers. For example, 8 Presidents of the United States (US) were Harvard graduates, while Yale graduated 5 students who later became US Presidents. Seventeen Japanese prime ministers are from the University of Tokyo, including 16 Nobel laureates. In Indonesia, several universities also specialize in donating academics to certain fields, for example whoever the president is, the Minister of Finance (and other ministers of economics) of the Republic of Indonesia always comes from University of Indonesia Faculty of Economics (and Business).
If we look closer at the track record of the finance minister, most of them were from the study center owned by FE UI, Institute for Economic and Community Research (LPEM). For example, Muhammad Chatib Basri (Minister of Finance for 2013-2014 period), had been an Associate Director for Research of LPEM, then a World Bank consultant and other global institutions, newly appointed as Head of the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), before becoming Minister of Finance.
Ms. Sri Mulyani was also relatively the same, serving as the Head of LPEM FE UI since 1998, before being appointed as IMF Executive Director in 2002-2004, becoming Minister of Finance for 4 periods (2 periods in the era of President SBY, and 2 periods in the era of President Joko Widodo). Mr. Bambang PS Brodjonegoro (from the same alma mater with Ms. Sri Mulyani) also began his career at LPEM FE UI, enriched by the experience of being a consultant on global institutions and of course the Dean of FE UI, before being appointed Minister of Finance, Men PPN / BAPPENAS, and now Minister of Research and Technology and Head of the National Innovation Research Agency.
From these conditions, besides having a strong scientific background, there are some things universities can do for grooming our academics in the cabinet:
- 1. Having a very strong study center. A university with high reputation must have study centers as a reference for strategic policies taken by the state such as LPEM FE (B) UI, where economists conduct studies based on the data they have and provide recommendations on strategic issues faced by the Indonesian people. If what is discussed and studied are local issues, don’t expect academics to become ministers. The key words, the study center that focuses on studying the nation’s strategic issues.
- Talent poolon strategic issues from university competitive advantage. Each university must have specific good competitiveness and core competence compared to others. And core competence is supported by the existence of reliable experts. When the expert is asked by the President (either as minister or ministerial level), his juniors are ready to replace. A healthy organization must have a healthy regeneration process.
- Healthy talent grooming, both from institutions, seniors, peers, and of course those connected. A senior with potential position provides an opportunity for his juniors to contribute and develop his networking and managerial skills. Institutions provide space for talents groomed to develop, by not giving the same burden as other lecturers on campus activities. It will form a supportive academic climate, in departments, faculties, and universities. Whenever there is revenue, institutional fees and others can certainly be compromised. Peers, especially on campus, also understand that talent grooming process is underway for some of their colleagues. Of course, the person concerned (talent) must answer the trust of colleagues, seniors, and institutions to give their best in the process.
- Development of social capital(cognitive, structural, and relational capital), both by the institution and the talent. The talent grooming is rarely exposed that the talents must have a team that supports interesting data, information and graphics to be displayed, as well as in-depth analysis and recommendations. No matter how good the study is, without a network in the media or technical ministries being targeted, it will be very difficult for these talents to “resonate” and be elected by the President.
This opinion is written as an alternative, that there are still many rooms for improvements that must be done to make our academics contribute at national level. It’s time for our university to prepare the best talents contributing at national level early on in a systematic manner.