In conversation with
Prof. Dr. H. Mustofa Kamil, Dipl., RSL., M.Pd.
Rector | Universitas Islam Syekh Yusuf Tangerang
Higher Education Spotlight: What is the meaning of education to you?
Prof. Dr. Mustofa Kamil: It is very difficult to fully describe it. Education is a process to create human character, especially in cognition, affection, and skilled performance. It is an important part of actualising a community.
Sometimes in Indonesia it is very difficult for people to get access to education, especially for the poor. More than 5% of the Indonesian population is illiterate. This makes it very difficult to empower people and develop the remote areas of the country. Education in Indonesia is the route to developing the country.
What is the main identity, or philosophy, behind Universitas Islam Syekh-Yusuf?
Prof. Dr. Mustofa Kamil: The population of teenagers in Tangerang is very high. Because of this, UNIS has an important role to play in increasing the number of people who have undergraduate degrees in the area and spreading Islamic values.
To achieve this, UNIS cooperates with the local government and other institutions in order to develop the level of higher education available. To build the Islamic mindset, we cooperate with local government to design and build houses for the poor.
In the time since you became rector of UNIS, the university has celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding. What goals and strategies have you set in place to achieve during your rectorship?
Prof. Dr. Mustofa Kamil: We want to have a strong name, not only locally or nationally, but globally. This is our “Great Vision”.
How do we motivate our lecturers to increase their capabilities? They must do more than just teach- they must perform and publish research, write books, and be active in serving the community.
We have a program to encourage student achievements outside academia. If they are interested in things outside their studies it is our duty to support them.
We also cooperate internationally with universities in Japan, Canada, Malaysia, and Australia. We have invited visiting professors from Australia, for example.
We try to build new facilities to create a scholarly atmosphere in which lecturers and students feel comfortable.
How are you expanding on your research here in UNIS? What are the main flagship projects that you are currently working on?
Prof. Dr. Mustofa Kamil: We have done a lot of research so far. All of our seven faculties produce research, with particularly significant work coming from lecturers of ecology and engineering. This is done at local, national, and international levels.
This year we have already prepared Rp1.5 billion of university money to fund research, along with donations from the local government and the Ministry of Higher Education.
So many small and medium enterprises need the help of academic institutions. How does UNIS cooperate with industry?
Prof. Dr. Mustofa Kamil: We have run some programs and benefit activities, not only with the local government, but also with local companies. Tangerang is famous for factories, so we try especially to have good relationships with chemical and textile companies, opening doors for our students to do internships and so on.
One of our newest programs is with the local government, as they renovate the houses of poorer people. They call on the help of our students, especially in the engineering faculty. Currently 104 students are involved.
Do you believe that Indonesia has fully taken advantage of MEA (ASEAN)? How do you feel UNIS can benefit from MEA in terms of partnerships and creation research with the industry?
Prof. Dr. Mustofa Kamil: In the future we hope that we can enjoy great cooperation with universities overseas, especially in terms of research. There are so many topics of research that we could have the opportunity to explore in the future. Collaboration throughout MEA and globally allows a greater quality of research in wide ranging areas.
Some nations, such as Malaysia, are already very globally minded. How do you feel Indonesia has been acting in this regard? What can be done better here?
Prof. Dr. Mustofa Kamil: Not all universities have the capability to think globally. In our university, we want to invite professors from all over the world to give our students that opportunity of interaction- with the English language, and with a globally-minded atmosphere.
We have hosted international seminars, like last December when we invited three professors from Australia, Malaysia, and Japan to come and be our keynote speakers. Here at UNIS our scholars and students are very enthusiastic about this.
But there are some problems. In the future it depends on whether or not we can afford it. We are eager, but funding is an issue. This is what we must figure out.
What is your opinion on creating an entrepreneurial, outward-looking mindset in your students? What are you doing at UNIS to encourage this?
Prof. Dr. Mustofa Kamil: We have tried to design our curriculum so that our students are willing to become entrepreneurs. Many students have embraced the ‘Open English’ program that we provide online, ideally giving them necessary skills for entrepreneurship in the future.
How else are you using technology to your advantage here at UNIS?
Prof. Dr. Mustofa Kamil: We have made efforts to harness the progress of information technology to improve our administration as well as embracing the potential of e-learning, e-journals, and e-libraries. Everything at UNIS will be online.
What do you expect UNIS will look like in ten years time? What will have changed?
Prof. Dr. Mustofa Kamil: We want to make UNIS a sophisticated, green campus with quality architecture. We are also very keen to improve our overall ranking as a university. It would be wonderful to have a greater proportion of international students by that time.
As a rector, and a role model, what is your message to show the Islam Nusantara educational spirit to the rest of the world?
Prof. Dr. Mustofa Kamil: Indonesia does not only consist of one religion, one ethnicity, or one language. We are actually extremely diverse, and Indonesia has been famous for this for a long time. We hope that we can build character in our students that is full of love, counter to the unfortunate association people around the world make between Islam and terrorism. Islam for us is full of peace, and appreciation for different cultures.
Building one’s character is not easy. We must help our students so that they can live loving, peaceful lives and inspire others to do the same.