By: Hafid Abbas Visiting Fellow for International Conflict Resolution at Columbia University 2007

Since Indonesia’s independence until now, it seems that not a single Indonesians have won the Nobel Prize. This is ironic because as the fourth largest country in the world with around 275 million people (BPS 2022), and has around 4,600 universities (HEI) spread throughout the country. This number is about four times greater than the total number of HEI in Africa (54 countries) which are only around 1,225 (Uniank, 2020).

Using the QS World Class University (WCU 2021) criteria, among the 28,000 HEI worldwide, which ranked four of the top of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Oxford, Stanford University and Harvard University. For Indonesia, among 4,593 PTs throughout the country (Dikti, 2021) only four were included in the 500 tops rangkings WCU group namely: UGM at 254, then followed by UI (293), ITB (303) and Airlangga University (465).

If the ranking indicator for a university is considered the best in the world based on its achievements in winning the Nobel Prize, in 2021, Harvard University will be ranked first with 151 Nobel awards, followed by Columbia University with 101, and then occupied by the University of Cambridge with 90 ( By paying attention to the distribution of the Nobel Prize, what is the typology of a university that is considered superior to produce a Nobel laureate?

Columbia University Typology

In 2007, I had the opportunity to be a Vising Fellow for International Conflict Resolution at Columbia University (CU). Time, that, CU only produced 76 Nobel Prizes winners, but in 2021, that number had increased to 101 from various disciplines.

This reputation is seen in accordance with the expectations of UNESCO who calls the university as “a community whose members, being fully committed to the principles of academic freedom, are engaged in the pursuit of truth, defense and promotion of human rights, democracy, social justice and tolerance of own communities and throughout the world, and participate in instruction for genuine participatory citizenship and in building a culture of peace (Policy Paper, 1995).”

Borrowing The 4-A approach from Katerina Tomasevski, Special Reporter of the United Nations (United Nations Special Rapperteur) 1998-2004 about the right to education that uses human rights parameters to assess the typology of one educational institution, that approach can also be used to assess CU typology based on data: Availability (Availability) Educational facilities and infrastructure; accessibility (accessibility); Improving quality and relevance (acceptability); and adaptability (adaptability).

First, Availability is related to all facilities and infrastructure that support the Tri Dharma One PT. CU as a private PT, which was founded since 1,754, is currently developing with 33,413 students, 4,370 teaching staff (2019) or with a ratio of 7.6 which means that each lecturer only serves 7-8 students. What is also amazing, in 2006, CU has 9.3 million collections of books, 6.2 million microform units, 28 million articles on research results and other scientific works, and more than 600 thousand rare books. When compared to the number of these collections (more than 44 million) with the number of 23,000 students at the time, the ratio of each student can borrow around 2.000 books every day. In addition, the university has 25 libraries that also have electronic connection with other libraries and international bodies so that students have access to obtain books and scientific journals in unlimited quantities.

2007 Data, Annual Budget (Annual Budget) CU of USD 2,54 billion to finance all operational activities. But in 2022, the figure increased to USD 5.8 billion. 59% of that amount is spent on educational, research and administrative activities, 15% for medicine, the rest for libraries, and other operational activities.

On the other hand, in 2006, this CU earned revenue of USD 2.71 billion, 24% of that number was sourced from Grant and employment contract with government institutions, 19% of student tuition fees, 15% of the results of research, 15% of the house Sick, 11% of the profits of campus business activities, 12% of contracts with private parties, and 4% of other sources.

At the end of June 2006, CU had an endowment of USD 6 billion which has now increased to USD 13.3 billion (2021).

It is also interesting to note that the undergraduate student tuition per year (2007-2008) is USD 37,223, and if you live in a dormitory, there is an additional fee of USD 9,937, or around IDR 470 million tuition fees for each student per year. At present (2022) the tuition is increased to USD 63530 per year (net tuition fee) or contributing to USD 1.5 billion or 26% of the total annual budget, the same as the Hospital Contribution (26%), the government grant of USD 1, 2 billion (21%), and investment income (investment income) of USD 644 million (11%), the rest from various other sources. If added up, CU manages USD 19.1 billion or around IDR 300 trillion a year (IDR 15,633 rupiah exchange rate).

Second is an accessibility associated with providing the widest possible opportunity to the wider community to obtain education in CU. In 2006, CU had around 23,000 students, it turned out that most of them were foreign students from 155 countries, the most from China, South Korea, India, Canada, and Japan. Of all foreign students, only 8% Bachelor, 32% Master and Doctors, professional fields 30%, 11% medicine, the rest of the special and non-degree programs around 19%. At present (2022), CU has 33,413 students, but only 4,370 S1 (13%) the rest are postgraduate students or other programs.

On average every year the number of students who applied for college to CU reaches 40-50 thousand people, but those received are less than 10%. In 2021, for example, among 40462 applicants, only around 7% were accepted, because of its high academic standards (CU fact 2021). Another fact, CU has around 36,7041 alumni spread across 184 countries. The alumni network that has been well fostered is one of the advantages of this university.

Third, acceptability is related to the management of high-quality education in accordance with the needs of the world of work, the demands of the development of science and technology, and also in accordance with the demands of the dynamics of global societal change.

With such varied services, the university has answered the demands of the dynamics of the needs of the community both the US and the international community. In 2006, no less than 150 study programs offered by CU. The most seems to be in the postgraduate programs and professional programs. All of these options are spread in Graduate and Professional Schools: (1) Architecture, Planning and Preservation, (2) Arts, (3) Arts and Sciences, (3) Business, (4) Continuing Education, (5) Dental and Oral Surgery, (6) Engineering and Applied Science, (7) International and Public Affairs, (8) Journalism, (9) Law, (10) Medicine, (11) Nursing, (12) Public Health, and (13) Social Work. Whereas S1 majors and study programs are spread in Columbia College, Engineering and Applied Science, and General Studies.

Another interesting thing is that the study programs offered tend to be tailored made, according to needs. If the need decreases, the program can be closed again.

Finally, adapability is related to how to create an adaptive educational process (adaptable) of the rules of education, the best principles for students, and the development of science and technology. For academic and non-academic activities of students, CU provides: Support services in the form of: Administrative Services at CUMC, Payable Accounts, Campus Mail, Catering, Chaplain Controller’s Office, Environmental Stewardship, Foundation Relations Office, General Counsel, Human Resources: Benefits Overview, Jobs At Columbia, CUMC Human Resources; International Students and Scholars Office: International Faculty and Staff, New International Scholars, Ombuds Office, Off-Campus, Housing, Payroll, Printing, Projects and Grants, Public Affairs Office, Purchasing Transportation Services, and Treasure’s Office, etc.

With a conducive academic leadership climate and academic traditions strengthened by its international network, overall has led CU as the second largest Nobel Prize -winning print university in the world and can manage funds of around IDR 300 trillion a year.

Hopefully this valuable experience (Lessons Learned) from CU can be adopted, especially for National University Legal Entity or for other National Universitys who are now in the process of changing from National University Public Service Agency to National University Legal Entity. We wish in time the universities in the country will be healthier with their increasingly qualified traditions and academic culture so that they can also print Nobel Prize winners and various other reputations in the future.