Translated by DM
A top university produces top figures. Yes, it was true when I was a teenager and dreaming about pursuing tertiary education at this top university. Unfortunately, the dream has never come true.
I really admired many figures, who graduated from this top university, in the 1980s era. Their reputation shaped educational discourses at the national as well as international levels. One of those figures was a woman, whose “mother image” created an impression of the convergence between the meaning of education and the characters of loving mothers. Once I eventually had a chance to meet these figures, I greeted them proactively with a firm handshake, expecting their positive energies flowing toward me through their hands.
Once I got an order to lead a team to investigate this university due to several reports, unlike my previous assignments, I was feeling overwhelmed for about one week. I could not imagine that I had to deal with figures that I had admired for so long, whose strong auras could wrap and freeze me. My guts shrunk as a piece of paper, just like the feelings of the other team members. Yet, the Ministry of Research and Higher Education insisted that the team had to go. It was perhaps because of some strong reports to the Ministry regarding abnormal and suspicious graduation of a man, who graduated from this university at the same day when the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) frisked his office. I got an impression that the Ministry wanted to ensure that the academic process at the university follows the proper rules and to avoid academic misconducts, if any, as early as possible.
I then remembered an advice from a friend, who is kyai, an Islamic cleric: if you know the truth and kindness, strive for them patiently. I made up my mind to take this advice. I felt like I heard a voice yelling at me: “Visit your brother and give your warmth, maybe he is sick and needs your embrace”. In September 2016, together with my team, I eventually visited the university to seek the truth and to uncover what was actually going on at this university, causing some reports sent to the Ministry.
Today, the university is still physically strong, just like in the old days. Yet, it seemed that its sole has gone, just like a man without blood. Here, I found several facts that contradicted natural law and common senses. Honestly, we did not expect that we would witness a set of “academic oddness” at this university, exactly on the things that are very fundamental in the academic world.
Usually, a university will be very proud to show academic works of its students. To me, the meaning of the doctoral promotion in a dissertation defense is nothing but a proud of showing the academic achievement of a doctoral candidate and, therefore, also the achievement of the alma mater. So does the meaning of academic publication, which is nothing but showing the academic works to the public in the context of assuring the accountability and the reputation of the academic institution. Unfortunately, at this university, it did not work quite well. They were very reluctant to give us some samples of dissertation. We just asked five soft copies of dissertations and they were unable to provide us the copies for various reasons. We eventually managed to get the copies, after several weeks of struggle, using “an intervention from the top”. We also found that some dissertations did not exist in the repository and at the library shelves, as if they had gone, disappearing from the earth.
The law of gravity states that the further from the mass center, the smaller the effect of the gravity. Based on the data of doctoral program at this university, such a Newton law does not work. On the contrary, the antigravity law works quite well. The older the students, the better their GPAs, and the faster they graduate. The farther the students reside from the university, the faster they graduate and the better their academic honors. Several students were even able to complete their doctoral programs in less than two years! This is what I call an “abnormal graduation” at the beginning of this article.
Completing a doctoral program in less than two years, without any proper academic publication, is truly considered as “abnormal graduation”. The Ministry of Education and Culture’s Regulation No. 49 Year 2014 on the National Standard of the Higher Education requires a minimum three-year doctoral program. I know that this requirement no longer exists in the newer regulation – that is, the Ministry of Research and Higher Education’s Regulation No. 44 Year 2015. However, the appropriateness and the reasonableness of the academic processes should exist.
I tried to think positively. Perhaps, the academic process run quite well so it could lead the students to finish their programs sooner than it should be. If this was true, we might have to suggest the government to provide a two-year doctoral scholarship only, instead of a four-year doctoral scholarship. This could increase the budget efficiency up to 50%, and thus also increase the efficiency of the state budget. Such a model of doctoral acceleration, as displayed at the glass wall of the campus, can also be adopted by all Indonesian universities to improve their competitiveness. We do not need to send our students to take doctoral programs overseas any more. What we need is to push our universities to adopt such a model of doctoral acceleration. Do not open classes on weekdays. A weekend class is enough, and students may skip classes if they need to travel abroad for vacation.
I think we need to standardize the definition of fake diploma. Based on cases I found in Indonesia, a fake diploma can be defined in three ways. First, a fake diploma is produced by imitating an original document of valid diploma. This includes faking the identity of legal institution that produced the original diploma. This is exactly a crime, which can be proved by comparing the original document of the diploma and the fake one. Second, the diploma is produced by an illegal institution. In Indonesia, this is the so-called Ijazah Aspal (an original but fake diploma). We can trace such a fake diploma by checking the data base of the institutional permit. Third, a fake diploma is a diploma produced by a legal institution, but it was issued through improper academic process. It does not meet a minimum standard required by the government. We can call it Ijazah Abal-Abal (a fake diploma).
When this fake diploma is issued due to financial motives (profit-orientation), it is just like a housewife who becomes a prostitute for the sake of money. The first and second categories of fake diplomas are the domain of law officers, to enforce the law. The third category, obviously, is the domain of the Ministry of Research and Higher Education to handle it.
This article focuses on the third category of fake diploma – that is, a diploma issued by a legal institution without an accountable process and a proper academic result. An investigation and analysis on the records of class attendance indicated that there was no actual class or, if any, the class did not meet the required standards. A handwriting analysis of the students’ signatures on the attendance records as well as the information on their presents outside the campus during the class times confirm our assumption that pseudo classes have existed. Although the records of class attendance existed, the classes were not actually held.
Based on the attendance records, we also found irrational practices of credit semester system and class meetings. Several classes were completed within two days, in which the time duration of each meeting was 15 hours per day, per course. This practice was exactly applied to all courses regardless of the number of credit hours.
I would like to stop my description on the “oddness” on class-learning process here. I do not have the heart to disclosure all of the misconducts in learning process more than this. In short, based on our investigation, we could not find any quality assurance for the doctoral program being a sample of our investigation.
This “small research” shows an irony. Whereas the object of investigation was a doctoral program in management, we found a poor management of doctoral program! Article 28 of the Ministry of Research and Higher Education’s Regulation No. 44 Year 2015 states that a doctoral promoter can supervise up to ten students at all levels. A survey on the professors at top universities in Indonesia shows that most professors supervised between 8 and 9 students, so they could produce between 2 and 3 doctors per year.
A further investigation indicated that doctoral supervision concentrated only on certain promoters. There was one promoter who produced 327 doctors in the last five years (not including 38 doctors in Bali that were not listed on the supervision records). In 2016 only, this supervisor produced 118 doctors! This means that, he was able to produce one doctor per three days. On the August 16, 2016, this supervisor produced 7 doctors in just one day. Such an achievement is even impossible to happen in any world-class university.
Another investigation of the process of dissertation defense also discovered an interesting result. A soft copy of the power point presentation, sent by the graduate school to the team, showed an inconsistency between the slides. The first and the second slides of the presentation displayed information about the title of dissertation (i.e., about the development of entrepreneurship model in an Indonesian province), the student’s identity, and the promoter’s identity. However, starting from the third slide to the end, we could see that the presentation was not about the title. It was about an evaluation on the implementation of a local regulation on the Quran literacy in another province.
Our investigation of the dissertation focused on five copies of dissertations that we selected from a non-regular class (kelas khusus). The class consisted of 15 students from the same city and province. We learned that the student’s ID number in a cover page of one of the dissertations actually belonged to somebody else, not the student who wrote the dissertation. We also found that two of the dissertation were actually made and finished in less than 40 days. More importantly, a large part of both dissertations were made in the same computer and by the same user ID.
We also learned that the substances of the dissertations were actually just copied and pasted from various materials available on the Internet (e.g., websites, blogs, theses and dissertation repositories). For example, in one of the dissertation, the chapter on findings and analysis was actually copied and pasted from a book entitled “Meningkatkan Kinerja PNS melalui Perbaikan Penghasilan: Analisa TKD di Pemerintah Provinsi Gorontalo dan TPPK di Pemerintah Kota Pekanbaru” (Improving the Performance of Civil Servants through the Improvement of Income: An Analysis of TKD of the Gorontalo Provincial Government and TPPK in the Pekanbaru City Government). The book was written by Mochammad Jasin et al. and was published by Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in 2007. The “student” merely replaced the word TKD with TPP and changed the name of province. In another dissertation, the chapter on findings and analysis was taken from the introduction chapter of the undergraduate thesis, written by an UNS student, and from the article available in a personal blog by Hamdani (https://hamdani75.wordpress.com).
Looking at the data on the DIKTI data-base, we learned how this university had opened special classes of doctoral programs in collaboration with many universities and local governments. Based on our investigation, we can say that these non-regular special classes were not held on main campus and not in a proper way. It is very likely that they held classes off campus, which obviously violated the law and without a legal permit from the Ministry.
The Ministry needs to take an action to save this university. There is no reason to delay such an action. It is our obligation to stop such misconducts. The higher education society should work together in dealing with this problem, especially because it has a “unique duty” that does not belong to any other society – that is, building a strong academic culture, which is a fundamental pillar of mental revolution introduced by the Joko Widodo administration. The Ministry should also demonstrate the characters of justice and fairness, without any discrimination, to all Indonesian universities, big and small. A fake diploma from top university is real. It can spread the stupidity and even delinquency. We should not be ashamed to acknowledge it, yet we should dare to end it.
—Supriadi Rustad, Member of Academic Performance Evaluation Team of the Ministry of Research and Higher Education