Jakarta. The Indonesian government is planning to examine the academic qualifications of all of its officials in an effort to clamp down on the recent discoveries of counterfeit university diplomas.
Research and Higher Education Minister Mohammad Nasir has conducted raids on unlicensed universities and printing shops producing fraudulent diplomas as well as legitimate universities that issue certifications in exchange for money but without completing the required educational courses.
The minister on Tuesday officially lodged a criminal complaint with the National Police on the widespread trade.
Minister for Bureaucratic Reform Yuddy Chrisnandi has said that in light of the discovery, the government will examine the qualifications of public officials across the country.
“There will be sanctions for those using fake diplomas,” the minister said adding that the examination will be conducted by each ministry’s inspector general. “Officials found with fake diplomas will face administrative sanctions and given a demotion,” he added.
Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, however, has a more severe punishment in mind.
“We will demote them first. But personally, I think [anyone caught with a fake degree] should face criminal charges so we can fire them,” he said on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is mulling over a similar move after a former staffer reported Frans Agung Mula Putra, a legislator from — ironically enough — the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura), for allegedly using a fake university degree to become elected.
He is currently under investigation by the House’s honors committee.
“We will convene [on Thursday] and discuss the allegations [against Frans],” Sufmi Dasco Ahmad, the committee’s deputy chairman, told reporters on Wednesday.
Frans denied the accusation, claiming: “I am now studying for my doctorate at Satyagama University. This means my [degrees] are not fake; how else would I have been able to join the doctorate program?”
The university in question, which operates three campuses in West and South Jakarta, has confirmed that Frans is a PhD student with the school, CNN Indonesia reported on Wednesday.
However, Frans’s current business card boasts that the Hanura lawmaker is already a PhD holder.
“I never used that title for state administrative affairs or formal institutional matters. Besides, the title on my business card was my staff’s initiative,” he said.
House Deputy Speaker Fahri Hamzah urged the honors committee to widen the scope of their investigation.
“Inspect all [lawmakers], because this is a disgrace. We could also ask the higher education ministry to conduct and inspection,” Fahri said.
“A lawmaker should be honest. Don’t be ashamed of the fact that you only have a high school diploma, because even a high school graduate can be a lawmaker. “You can’t claim to be a doctor when you didn’t obtain the title through the proper, academic procedures.”
Vina Salvina, a sociologist from Malang’s Muhammadiyah University in East Java, said diplomas have become somewhat of a social status in Indonesia, where many families still cannot afford to send their children to universities.
Tertiary degrees are, therefore, closely associated to wealth and power.
Having diplomas “is a privilege and a prestige,” she said. “This is why in campaign posters and banners, candidates flaunt the many academic titles they have [or claim to have].”
This prestige has driven many to pay for fake academic qualifications.
Higher education minister Nasir met with National Police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti on Tuesday to deliver the results of ministry studies and its attempts to crack down on the fraud.
The ministry had discovered hundreds of diplomas issued by “foreign universities” of unclear repute that had actually been printed in Indonesia.
The Jakarta Police on Monday evening arrested two people said to have produced such fraudulent diplomas in an East Jakarta printing shop.
Nasir said his ministry had also discovered unlicensed universities operating in small, rented shops and houses, including the so-called “University of Berkley” in an office building in Central Jakarta.
The institution was found to have only obtained a license for short courses, contradicting its oblique claim of cooperation with the non-existing University of Berkley in Michigan in the United States — apparently a misspelled amalgamation of the names of two top US institutes: University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Michigan.
The ministry also took note of formerly legitimate universities that never bothered to have their accreditation renewed.
“When a university is not licensed or has not extended its accreditation for years, such universities are [technically] issuing illegal diplomas,” Nasir said.
“The problem of fake diplomas is becoming a national concern and we cannot let it continue. My ministry is cracking down on universities believed to have issued illegal diplomas throughout Indonesia,” Nasir continued. “If we find such universities, we will shut them down.”
At least 18 licensed universities, according the ministry’s data, have issued diplomas in exchange for money to students who did not follow proper academic procedures.
National Police chief Badrodin said the cases merited individual investigation since they have different circumstances and may not all be criminal in nature.
“The cases are different so we need to study them first,” he said.
Further Coverage Editorial: Real Action in Cases of Fake Degrees