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The Sampoerna Foundation University Project

Putera Sampoerna FoundationIndonesia

Topic(s): Community Engagement, Organizational Design
Sampoerna Foundation University Project
Funding Source:
Higher Ed - Public, Other, Private, Government
community organization
Type of Institution:
Highest Degree Offered:
Project Contact Information:


The Sampoerna Foundation, a respected leader in the reform of primary and secondary education in Indonesia, has initiated a project to create a new university. The goal of the project is to found an institution that is capable of delivering access to a world-class education to a broad cross-section of Indonesians while also enhancing research capacity, knowledge transfer, and internationalization. The foundation has achieved strong support from the government, private sector organizations, and local interest groups, including the Islamic community. Community support has allowed the foundation to overcome significant challenges in its first phase of development. Growth of the institution is expected to flourish to support the development of several new schools that will support study and research in a number of disciplines that are underrepresented in higher education in Indonesia.

The project also aspires to provide a model for greater reforms among institutions of higher education in Indonesia to support expanded access and higher standards of quality. Students will benefit from the adoption of international standards for education, opportunities for international exchange, and a strong commitment to research and knowledge transfer among a talented pool of students and faculty.

Project Description

One of the leading concerns in an increasingly globalized economy is that college graduates are prepared to be competitive in global markets. In Indonesia, the Putera Sampoerna Foundation is undertaking a number of strategic initiatives to support enhancements and internationalization in the Indonesian education system. The foundation has established a reputation as a leader in primary and secondary education reform since 2001 by providing scholarships to tens of thousands of students, conducting teacher training, and adopting schools throughout the country to improve facilities and student performance. Acknowledging that higher education is the next area for improvement, the Putera Sampoerna Foundation has begun work to establish a new university that will seek to elevate the overall quality of Indonesian higher education by providing a new model for reform.

The foundation operates on the belief that a number of cultural, financial, and institutional barriers keep many Indonesians from pursuing an education. Still, those who receive a university education are disadvantaged by the relative quality of education in Indonesia. The new university will help to overcome these and other challenges by creating a strong institution established upon international standards for education and providing expanded access to Indonesians from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. The foundation hopes to attract top student and faculty talent and will focus on internationalization as one way to bring new ideas and practices to a system known to provide few opportunities for international exchange. The new university will also provide new facilities to support a significant expansion of research and knowledge transfer in Indonesia. 

A number of government-imposed requirements create unique challenges for the Sampoerna Foundation university project. The government has established a moratorium on issuance of permits for new institutions of higher education. The foundation’s reputation persuaded the government to make an exception for the university project. Other regulations governing existing colleges require institutions to expand one school at a time until they have achieved the nine schools required for university status. Each school must achieve financial viability and certain academic standards before the next can be founded. The Sampoerna Foundation already operates a School of Education, which supports teacher training and the development of educational programs and systems. If the foundation were to start the process beginning with its education school, it would likely expend significant financial resources and time to achieve the goal of full university status. The business minds behind the foundation had another strategy in mind.

The foundation has proposed to purchase Swadaya Business College, an institution with a nearly 40-year history, which qualifies it to expand outside of the sequential growth model that governs new institutions. By acquiring Swadaya, the Sampoerna Foundation can get started on creating multiple academic units at once. The combined education and business programs along with a third school of applied sciences will make up the first phase of the university project. The first phase will take seven years and focus on fully developing and integrating the first three schools, founding a campus, and building capacity for approximately 10,000 students. The second stage will include development of new schools of law, agricultural and life sciences, and engineering on a second campus. The second phase is anticipated to add another 10,000 students to the university. Further expansion is envisioned to support additional disciplines that are underrepresented among Indonesian institutions.

Project Results

It is difficult to know how successful the Sampoerna Foundation will be in achieving its goal of founding a new university. There is a significant amount of work to be completed before the first phase of the project can establish viability for the first three schools in the university. If the foundation’s reputation in primary and secondary education is any indication, it is likely to succeed. The foundation’s commitment, ability to attract domestic and international partners from the private sector, and its domestic reputation and rapport with the government has already helped to overcome some very significant challenges.

The foundation has also achieved significant support from the nation’s Islamic community. It has become the first non-Muslim organization in Indonesia to be licensed to collect contributions through individual tithing and other forms of Islamic philanthropic support. Much of this funding will support scholarship programs to help disadvantaged students attend the university. To honor its partnership with the Islamic community, the university’s secular focus will be balanced by a commitment to foster opportunities and respect for students of various faiths on its campuses. The university is hopeful that its pluralistic community will further support the development of rigorous and active knowledge transfer. The project’s ambitions aspire to deliver an exciting new model for the establishment and growth of new universities in Indonesia and perhaps the world.

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