Indonesia to expand its defense university

Indonesia to expand its defense university

Tom Abke

Indonesia is expanding its National Defense University, also known as Unhan, to create expertise in fields of knowledge vital to Indonesia’s defense.

Plans include building facilities on 20 hectares to house Unhan’s growing departments of military engineering, pharmacy and medicine, along with maths and natural sciences. The expansion corresponds to the launch of a new undergraduate program for the 2020-21 academic year. Some of the lectures may be conducted online rather than in classrooms if the threat of coronavirus disease persists and requires such precautions.

Unhan’s expansion is important to Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, who pledged near the start of his tenure in October 2019 to boost human resources in the defense area, Dharma Agastia, assistant professor of international relations at Indonesia’s President University, told FORUM.

In May 2020, Prabowo toured the Unhan campus, about 50 kilometers south of Jakarta, and discussed the expansion plans with the university’s chancellor, Dr. Amarulla Octavian, the Defense Ministry reported. (Pictured: Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto reviews expansion plans during his May 2020 visit to Unhan.)

“The expansion of Unhan is indeed remarkable,” Agastia said. “I see it as one of the government’s efforts in making the study of national security much more accessible to the masses, especially when you consider that the new programs are opened for undergraduates.”
The university opened in 2011 to teach “defense science from a military, political, economic, social and cultural perspective” for officers in Indonesia’s Armed Forces, known as Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI). Unhan also is open to civilians, according to its charter, “to produce an intellectual cadre of state defense.”

The expansion of courses responds directly to the rapid changes in the country’s defense profile, explained Ryan Yovantra, who earned a master’s degree in defense management from Unhan in 2018. A more technology-focused TNI gave rise to Unhan’s military technology faculty, he said. By opening its doors to undergraduates, the university can start building a much-needed core of human resources equipped to defend the country.

TNI officers enroll at Unhan for courses on defense theories and practice taught by military experts and practitioners, including decorated, highly ranked retired officers, Yovantra said.

“In Unhan, students are taught that military forces are to be used only for the maintenance of peace and order,” he said. “Toward this end, Unhan also offers courses on nontraditional security areas, including humanitarian assistance and international peacekeeping operations.”

Other courses, he added, cover Indonesia’s political system and defense policy: from diplomatic strategy to issues of energy resilience, and from ethnic groups and religions to progress in the peacekeeping process.

Tuition is typically covered through Ministry of Defense scholarships available to Armed Forces personnel and civilians.

By expanding Unhan, said Agastia, Jakarta hopes to supply fresh talent to research programs that the Armed Forces deem important, such as engineers for state defense industries.

“Its graduates don’t need to worry about prestige,” she said, “as Unhan has already been accredited ‘A’ by the state higher education accreditation body,” or given the organization’s highest rating.

Tom Abke is a FORUM contributor reporting from Singapore.