Rethinking Student Welfare, Academic Performance, and Higher Education Rankings in Indonesia

Globalization has changed the world in such a way. Globalization encourages the exchange of ideas and ideas so that information technology develops to a stage that people rarely imagined before.

Globalization has changed the world in such a way. Globalization encourages the exchange of ideas and ideas so that information technology develops to a stage that people rarely imagined before. This technological development then resulted in an industrial system imbued with the spirit of capitalism. To date, the industrial world itself has experienced revolutions four times, major changes in industry itself. The first industrial revolution (1760-1840) was marked by the transition of production methods from handicrafts to the use of machines such as steam engines. The second industrial revolution (1870-1914) was more about systemic changes in industry, such as the use of new energy discoveries, namely coal and petroleum. During this time, human mobility also underwent a transformation, such as the development of communication via the telegraph to the rail network transportation mode. Early electrification systems also appeared in this era. The era of the second industrial revolution encouraged very rapid economic growth in a short time. The standard of living increases as the price of goods decreases. However, this era was also marked by massive unemployment rates due to massive standardization using machine power in factories, thus shifting the role of human labor (Britannica, 2023).

Then the third industrial revolution (1947-2000) was an industrial revolution that occurred after the decline in technological discoveries due to the first and second world wars. The third industrial revolution transformed the use of previous technology, which focused on mechanical technologies, heavy equipment technology, and analog technology to digital. This era is also referred to as the digital revolution which marks the start of a new era, namely the Information Age. In the digital revolution, the technological development that occurred was the development of computers or computing. The digital revolution brings stronger connectivity between international communities, easier communication, and openness to information (The Economist, 2012). Various important events in the world such as the Arab Spring in 2011 as a form of a large movement of people in the Arab region demanding democratization might not have been achieved if there were no mobile phones as a communication tool that is often used by people. The digital revolution also has a big impact on the economy. The digital revolution has changed the way individuals and companies or organizations interact. MSMEs in the regions, for example, can gain access to much larger markets in cities as a result of using internet technology. Concepts such as software services and on-demand manufacturing enable innovation in all aspects of industry and everyday life (Master, 2009).

Most recently, the fourth industrial revolution (2016-Now), also known as industry 4.0, was introduced by Klaus Martin Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, who argued that in the digital era, there have been significant changes in the capitalist industrial system. The fundamental shift that is taking place is the way global production and supply networks operate through continuous automation using smart methods (which can operate on their own without additional human intervention) such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine communication (M2M). This integration results in increased automation, improved communication and self-monitoring, and the use of smart machines that can analyze and diagnose problems without requiring human intervention (Techradar, 2020).

Along with the industrial revolution 4.0, the concept of society 5.0 or a super smart society is present to keep up with the rapid development of technology. Society 5.0, a concept that emerged from Japan, represents the evolution of society driven by the integration of digital technology and artificial intelligence (Artificial Intelligence) in almost all aspects of life. This concept aims to create a society that is smarter, more sustainable and focused on human welfare. Along with technological developments and globalization, the concept of Society 5.0 is becoming increasingly relevant in the educational context (Santoso, 2022). Society 5.0 is a vision of society that focuses on utilizing digital technology, artificial intelligence and connectivity to create a more efficient, inclusive and sustainable environment.

The industrial revolution that has occurred has had an impact on the world of education. The presence of the industrial revolution established an important concept in education, namely standardization. Standardization is seen as the right way to promote education, and this is achieved by standardized classrooms, curricula and teaching methods. This also applies to the new standardization of how higher education rankings are carried out.

Looking at the current academic world which has experienced the globalization of capitalism to such an extent, the industrial revolution has played a role in influencing the dynamics in the world of higher education so that competition between universities is a necessity. With the development of relations and competition between universities, each university always wants to be seen as the best than the others. This happens everywhere, both in international competition and national competition between domestic universities. The tension of this competition is increasingly made clear by the use of technology that shows university rankings. University rankings themselves have become an increasingly important and controversial topic in the world of higher education. Universities around the world compete to achieve the highest rankings in various international ranking lists, which often affects their reputation and student appeal.

Unfortunately, the author sees that the current university rankings, both by international institutions such as QS World University Ranking (QS WUR), Webometrics, 4ICU, THE, and the national ranking agency PDDIKTI by Indonesia’s Ministry of Education as the institutions that carry out these rankings do not look at aspects of student welfare. and only focuses on the university’s output performance. Therefore, the author argue to emphasize the importance of aspects of student welfare to be used as indicators in the ranking process.

Impact of Student Welfare on Academic Performance

By improving the quality of education, it is expected to produce superior future generations (Triwidatin, 2019). In addition, assessment of learning outcomes must be carried out regularly to improve the quality of education and produce quality human resources in accordance with clear competency standards.

Unfortunately, academic performance is fraught with problems of student welfare. Those who come from well-established families will have wider opportunities to develop various skills (Marceylla & Subroto, 2021). This can be done, for example, by hiring course services at a high cost. Compared to those who come from underprivileged families, it will certainly be difficult to pay the expensive cost of hiring a tutor so that skill development is done by themselves through trial and error for months. With a big gap to develop students’ abilities, there will certainly be a significant difference in academic performance. Through these simple examples, we should stop seeing welfare issues as a separate category. Because the fact is, welfare issues greatly affect the learning process and achievement.

A Critique of the Current Ranking System

In the last few decades, the world of education has been enlivened by ranking systems such as QS WUR, Webometrics, 4ICU, THE and the Ministry of Education and Culture. They provide their own reports on university rankings. It is legitimate to rank universities because this can help to see the performance of universities. Ranking can be seen as a form of supervision of university management. By making comparisons between one campus and another, it can spur other campuses to improve the quality of existing services.

The indicators used in general as the author took from one of the institutions, QS World University Rankings, are reputation, learning environment (number of students per faculty member), research impact (number of citations), and internationalization of universities or ratio of international students (Topuniversities, 2021). Although QS has made some revisions to their methods such as adding aspects of the environment, health, and gender ratio, but even QS institutions still do not touch the aspect of poverty (QS, n.d.). DIKTI’s assessment is even more rigid. Of the five aspects of HR, Institutional, Student Affairs, Community Service, and Innovation, all are administrative assessments such as accreditation, lector positions, number of Doctoral lecturers and so on.

With these materialistic indicators, it can be clearly seen that the ranking agency does not take sides in student welfare issues. Indicators such as reputation, for example, do not provide equal opportunities for newly formed universities to compete with other universities that have been established for a long time.

An easily achievable way to quickly improve a college’s reputation is to boost spending through events such as international seminars and inviting renowned professors from abroad. Learning environment indicators essentially require more space for new staff, automatically increasing the college’s operational costs. The research impact indicator generally encourages universities to bring in renowned researchers as part of the university as well as highly incentivize research projects, which also requires a large additional cost. Finally, the internationalization indicator also requires a large budget for universities to accommodate international students.

Ironically, not all universities have an intimate relationship with the surrounding industry as sponsors, so the surefire move of university policy is to raise tuition fees sky-high. This puts more pressure on those whose campus life is already not prosperous.

Concluding Remarks

It is necessary for ranking agencies to pressure universities to create accountable and transparent financial reports. Then, the use of AI technology to big data to include socio-economic factors of students as important indicators in the assessment. In simple terms, ranking agencies can measure based on the ratio of university income to tuition fees so that the existing ranking system is truly applied proportionally to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of universities in managing the existing budget.

Yosua S. M. Gultom
Yosua S. M. Gultom
Yosua Saut Marulitua Gultom is a student of International Relations at Universitas Pembangunan Nasional Veteran Jakarta. He is interested in Philosophy, International Relations Theories, Foreign Policy, and Human Rights Issues.