The German Academic Exchange Service DAAD can look back on a long tradition of connecting people and academia. What started in 1925 in Heidelberg, Germany as the initiative of a group of students who wanted to become “more international” has turned into an independent worldwide organisation that promotes academic cooperation through the exchange of students, scholars, academics and scientists. The DAAD regional office in Jakarta opened its doors in 1990.
“The role of DAAD has somewhat changed over the years. The demand for individual scholarships, especially the scholarship program for doctoral candidates, which was very important at the beginning of our work in Indonesia, doesn’t play such a crucial role anymore. Nowadays we put a bigger emphasis on policy work and providing information about institutions of higher education as well as research institutes in Germany,” says Irene Jansen, Director of the DAAD Regional Office Jakarta. “In short, I would say that the DAAD has transformed from primarily being a provider of scholarships to a facilitator for trainings, and from individual sponsorships to more structured sponsorships.”
In Indonesia in particular, the DAAD focuses on four different areas: scholarships, promotion and information, policy and training, as well as the strengthening of the Alumni network.
“Another area of importance to the DAAD is the field of German studies,” Irene Jansen says. “We have several lecturers at German Departments in universities here, ever since the 1960s.”
Generally, the interest in Germany and the German language is steadily increasing – which is, among others, owed to the fact that the DAAD has put much effort into improving its media relations and organizing more events and webinars.
“The number of Indonesian student beginners in Germany has significantly gone up over the past five years, but it is not only that – the number of graduates also increased, which is of course a big success for us and our work here as well,” Irene Jansen explains.
Irene Jansen herself has been at the helm of DAAD in Jakarta for almost five years. But her love affair with Indonesia started almost three decades ago, when she was still working as a university professor and wanted to explore the world by working abroad. Initially, she had applied for a teaching position in Taiwan, but was then also offered a job in Indonesia.
“I must admit, I wasn’t sure about this at first, because at the time, Indonesia was a stagnating country,” Irene Jansen recalls. However, after reading an elaborate report and her potential position at Universitas Indonesia which was setting up its first Pascasarjana Program, she was convinced that Jakarta was the place to be – and she never regretted her decision.
“These were wonderful years,” she says, adding that during that time, she gained a better insight into the world of the DAAD as well, which eventually led her to work for the organisation.
“When I received the offer to go to Jakarta again, I didn’t hesitate for one second. There were a lot of political changes, which in turn resulted in a lot of movement at the universities in terms of international networking and regional interest,” she explains. “To work in the heart of ASEAN was something I was really looking forward to.”
Irene Jansen’s 5-year-term is soon coming to a close. While she can look back on many highlights, there are still more tasks to be done.
“If there is one thing I could wish for is that Indonesia successfully masters the strenuous effort to transform its universities from mere educational establishments into research establishments,” she says. “If this can be accomplished, it would be an important step in the right direction because then well-educated scientists would be enticed to stay in academia rather than opt for ministerial or administrative positions, and thus share their knowledge with students and scientists.”