In conversation with
Mr. Mangadar Situmorang, Ph.D.
Rector | Universitas Katolik Parahyangan
Higher Education Spotlight: What does education mean to you?
Mangadar Situmorang, Ph.D.: It means empowerment- empowering an individual person to see, understand, and create change. It also means liberation. In my understanding, being a modern person means being more independent and capable of understanding reality. Finally, education means enabling people to see they have multiple options in life. That’s the difference between traditional and modern societies.
The mayor of Bandung has stated he will put a new focus on education, while the Bandung Techno Park is fostering entrepreneurship and SMEs. In this context, what have you identified as your new development goals since you became rector of UNPAR?
Mangadar Situmorang, Ph.D.: We are still expecting he mayor’s commitment to bring that focus into reality. For us it seems more like a politically motivated promise than a genuine plan for years to come.
But I do see sense in encouraging people to be more creative, especially since Bandung is known as a very creative city with very creative people. Their creativity and innovative outlook probably comes from how difficult life can be here. Creativity not solely from freedom and opportunity, but from necessity.
UNPAR was founded to educate young people in this area. To make them capable of dealing with their own lives and contribute to the development of society and culture.
What would you identify as the philosophy of UNPAR, and the institution’s milestones over the years?
Mangadar Situmorang, Ph.D.: The mission has stayed the same since it was founded. UNPAR is based on three main principles: love the truth, do all things for the common good, and respect differences.
The Catholic community in Indonesia is very small. Since the Indonesian population is not predominantly Catholic and in a development process, we do see the way to be involved in dealing with problems within society through education. To do this we must be aware of the importance of universal, non-religious values- as I said, the truth, common good, and respect. Being a Catholic university, a private university, means quality. This is the only thing that we can offer the community.
What are some of the new developments that you are looking towards implementing during your rectorship?
Mangadar Situmorang, Ph.D.: In the very beginning we tried to introduce an initiative to disseminate our spirituality and principal values. Through this we want to ask our staff that our core business be education, and that our missionary objective again is educating and empowering young generation.
Because of this principle, a modern management system might not seem to fit with our approach- concerns like profit, efficiency, and competitiveness. We are quite critical of the kinds of standards and regulations imposed by the so-called ‘education industry’.
However, we can’t deny the importance of accreditation, and almost all of our study programs are already accredited ‘A’, the government’s highest level. We are happy about this and we use this fact in our promotion. And, considering the significance of such accreditation, we do expect that such a highest level of accreditation will also be achieved institutionally.
How did you feel when you took the rector position and had to strike a balance between teaching and your responsibilities as a leader?
Mangadar Situmorang, Ph.D.: I have wanted the opportunity to create positive change within this university for a long time, so I was thinking about the developments I could make long before I became rector. I must say, you can do a lot of things for the development of this university regardless of what your position is within it. As rector, now my job is to manage, to synergise and make all the individual concerns within the university our overall common concerns. If somebody has something that needs to be done, okay, I can facilitate and support it. Ideas are everywhere, belonging to students, academic staff, and admin staff.
What are the current flagship research projects at the university? How are you working with industry to create industry-relevant research and graduates?
Mangadar Situmorang, Ph.D.: It is dependent on the faculty. We have two faculties that can be considered to come under the umbrella of engineering: the Faculty of Engineering covers civil engineering and architecture, but the Faculty of Industrial Technology also comprises industrial technology, chemical engineering, and the recently established mechatronics program. Finally, the Faculty of Science and Informatics Technology is the third of our faculties with direct significance to industry. For UNPAR, commercialisation of the university through research is generally related to these three faculties.
This kind of commercialisation at UNPAR is in its infancy, but we hope to develop it. Civil engineering and architecture are probably the most well established programs in this sense, with a strong relationship with industry. This is very much influenced by the number of UNPAR alumni working in the construction and property sectors.
The Faculty of Industrial Technology is continually growing. I do see potential in integrating this field of studies with industry, in terms of manufacturing sectors. Some research done by our academic staff has earned appreciation from industry and the government, which we are very pleased with, though it has had a limited commercial impact.
The challenge of commercialisation is one shared by many universities in Indonesia. We are critical about the issue and have had a number of discussions regarding the possibility of the university having closer collaboration with industries or having its own business wing, to confer research findings into prototypes and eventually production for commercial interests. This is in process, but considered a long term goal.
What industry partnerships are you interested in establishing? Are your interests limited to Indonesia, or do they extend to the ASEAN region and beyond?
Mangadar Situmorang, Ph.D.: We cooperate to some level already with international agencies in making UNPAR more international not only in terms of the teaching process, but also research and post-university activities. We do need some support in terms of technical issues and drawing from the experience of organisations like the British Council. They support us in introducing social enterprises in particular.
When it comes to industrial collaboration in the sense of producing goods or services, we are looking at local and national markets. The textiles industry and food industry are the most relevant for our collaboration.
How do you see your links with institutions in ASEAN developing in the future?
Mangadar Situmorang, Ph.D.: We have a number of collaborations with universities around ASEAN. We are part of the Community of East Asian Scholars (CEAS), which unites institutions from around ASEAN, South Korea, China, and Japan. We have more established links through the Association of Catholic Universities and Colleges in Southeast Asia (ASEACCU) and the Association of Christian Universities and Colleges in Asia (ACUCA).
More specifically, our civil engineering and architecture programs have close collaboration with universities in Singapore and Malaysia. The Faculty of Law collaborates with universities in Thailand and Philippines. And there are more- we have quite a lot of international collaboration in this sense. Collaboration includes student exchange, staff mobility, and joint research.
ASEAN offers a big opportunity but, at the same time, an equally big challenge. Of course, we study the importance of being part of the global society, especially in Southeast Asia. It is important for Indonesian people to know the world beyond their national boundaries. It will show them that there may be something new, something different, something better outside their own community. This is a very natural way of educating people.
Through ASEAN, people are being asked to see themselves as part of this regional community. In a global context the Southeast Asian nations are often thought of as sharing a lot in common and having a common identity, but I do not think this is totally correct. We have differences, but this just means we have to take a moment to learn about these differences and understand them.
What are you doing to create a research and publication mind-set in your students?
Mangadar Situmorang, Ph.D.: We tried an initiative a year ago wherein we invited visiting professors to assist our staff and also students in their research and preparing papers for international publication. We also provide incentives for our staff to internationalise through publication.
Doing research is compulsory. It will be rewarded and appreciated. It is part of our responsibility, and this is impressed on our staff. Research is a service to the community, which is, of course, a vital part of our philosophy as a university.
Your Transformation Training in Southeast Asia program has become very popular. What can you tell our readers about this program and your plans for it in the future?
Mangadar Situmorang, Ph.D.: There are already long-running entrepreneurship programs at the university. We know the importance of empowering our students, not just with technical knowledge from a textbook but in terms of actualising and using that knowledge. This is the sense of being an entrepreneurial person.
We also propose many types of activities to make this more practical. We get our students and alumni ready for industry by telling them about the opportunities open to them and the practicalities of start-ups, for example.
We have allocated a certain amount of funding for this. We collaborate with many industries- hospitality, culinary, banking- and we organise internships with companies and corporations in relevant areas. We have also established the Centre of Excellence for Small and Medium Enterprises and UNPAR is now running the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM). GEM work on collecting and analysing data on SMEs in Indonesia. This can be to do with branding of enterprises, or demographic information on entrepreneurs themselves.
How do you envision UNPAR changing in the next 10 years?
Mangadar Situmorang, Ph.D.: We have our jargon already: ‘we move from a good to a great UNPAR’. I was asked, however, what I mean by ‘a great UNPAR’. This is hard to describe without resorted to hard quantitative figures, but I answered that we should be students’ first choice of university. We want to see more students at the university. Right now we have 10-11,000 but in the next five years we want see our student body reach 15,000.
‘Great’ also means more, better qualified, and more productive lecturers. We want to double the number of professor level lecturers in the next five years. We are already on the way to greatness- ranked 25th among all universities nationally, and 3rd among private.
We want to see more publication and policy recommendation. We want to have more effective and durable MoUs with our partners. They have to be more than just a paper, they have to lead to real action.
In your long and successful career, of what moment are you the most proud?
Mangadar Situmorang, Ph.D.: I am most proud of moving from one day to another day by doing more, and better. There is nothing for me that could be seen as most memorable or significant. I can’t claim every achievement in my career for myself. They come from collective effort and belong to many people. As a sportsman, I think of it like scoring a goal- it belongs to the whole team, not just the player who kicks the ball into the net.
How do you promote the concept of lifelong learning to your students and alumni?
Mangadar Situmorang, Ph.D.: I try to get colleagues and friends here involved in collaborative activities to show that I am not the only one here, that every problem can be solved through collective means.
Lifelong learning comes from interactions. I interact with my staff at every level as much as possible, playing sports with them, talking to them, and learning from them. I want to show that we are one.