Introduction to ACICIS
In this article Nicholas Metherall & Harry Roache-Wilson give you the lowdown on the Australian Consortium for ‘In-Country’ Indonesian Studies (ACICIS).
Within the realm of Australia–Indonesia relations, ACICIS has become a key authoritative institution. Indeed, ACICIS has pioneered the building of people-to-people links between Australia and Indonesia since its establishment in 1994.
Through building bridges for Australians to study in Indonesia, ACICIS aims to ‘overcome substantial academic, bureaucratic and immigration impediments’ that have and continue to be concerning obstacles for Australian and other overseas students to undertake ‘credited semester study’ (student exchange programs) in Indonesian universities.
With more than 10 years of experience operating in Indonesia and deep contextual knowledge of the cities in which it operates, ACICIS really knows Indonesia. ACICIS is very much immersed in core Indonesia and thus promises a deep cultural and linguistic learning experience.
Indeed, even the acronym ACICIS is a subtle reminder of all of the strange and slightly too long acronyms to be found in Indonesia.
ACICIS was established in 1994. Since 1995 more than 1,600 students have undertaken in-country study programs in Indonesia with ACICIS. This has become the ‘primary mechanism’ through which Australians study for credit in Indonesian universities.
Today ACICIS runs the Study Indonesia Program (SIP), which contains an impressive range of programs for various disciplines.
These programs are overseen by a small secretariat team based at the University of Western Australia and governed by a National Reference Group. ACICIS currently has 24 Australian member universities and 8 Java based Indonesian host universities.
ACICIS was identified in the Australian Government’s Australia in the Asian Century White Paper (2012) as a ‘successful model for in-country learning’. According to the ACICIS website, the ACICIS model has been proposed by the Asian Studies Association of Australia as a model of best practice to be established to provide in-country study for learners of Arabic, Hindi and Vietnamese.
According to ACICIS surveys, Alumni satisfaction with SIP programs is consistently high. The August 2012 intake showed that approximately 94% of respondents would recommend the ACICIS Study Indonesia program to other students at their university.
Asia Options also recognises that there are a myriad of outstanding alumni who have gained contextual knowledge, skills and motivation through the ACICIS program. Many of these alumni are now working in NGOs, DFAT, local organisations, universities, and multinational corporations. Others have even founded their own organisations or have started their own businesses.
It is clear that this multidisciplinary group is at the forefront of Australia-Indonesia relations. Even people from America, Europe and other parts of the world often refer to ACICIS for information and options to engage in Indonesia due to ACICIS’ expertise and the lack of other sources of information.
ACICIS receives awards
- The Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) presented ACICIS with its prestigious national award for ‘Programs that Enhance Student Learning’ (2008).
- ACICIS founder and Consortium Director Professor David T. Hill AM was awarded an ALTC National Teaching Fellowship to develop a national strategic plan for the rejuvenation of Indonesian language teaching at Australian universities (2009).
- Professor Hill was also inducted as a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2015 Australia Day Honours (2015).
A wide range of programs
Asia Options believes that ACICIS offers more in-study programs to Indonesia than any other organisation in the world. These programs are split into three main categories: Practicum Programs, Semester Programs and Tour Programs.
In essence, Practicum programs are a form of training and internship which can also be used to gain university credits that, if approved, can be transferred back to your home university. These programs are usually 6 week programs run annually from January to February in the urban setting of Jakarta. These programs are also usually competitive entry programs accepting limited numbers of participants.
For those hoping to gain practical work experience in Indonesia, Asia Options recommends reading into ACICIS Professional Practica (Internship) Programs.
There are five main practicum programs:
Check the Practicum Dates section of the website for the most up-to-date deadlines for application.
The semester programs often involve a more in-depth immersion than the practicum or tour programs. Study can include language courses such as BIPA and immersion subjects. Many Semester Programs even involve the opportunity to undertake field research in partnership with local universities or NGOs. These field reports and research papers are often published online at the conclusion of these semester programs.
- East Java Field Study (EJFS) – Malang
- Agriculture Semester Program (ASP) – Bogor
- Flexible Language Immersion Program (FLIP) – Yogyakarta
- Indonesian Language Teacher Immersion (ILTI) – Yogyakarta
- International Relations Program (IRP) – Bandung
- Development Studies Immersion Program (DSIP) – Yogyakarta
- Islamic Business Law and Society (IBLS) – Yogyakarta
- West Java Field Studies (WJFS) – Bandung (Asia Options experience)
The short course programs, which combine a range of options including school tours, study tours, and short courses, ensure that participants learn about everyday life in Java/Indonesia and receive a unique cultural immersion experience.
For more information you can hear the school tour testimonies.
Over the past decade there have been a range of Australian University participants in these programs which have already made a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) or other forms of agreement with ACICIS. These universities are listed below.
Participating Australian universities
- Curtin University of Technology
- Charles Darwin University
- Flinders University
- Griffith University
- La Trobe University
- Macquarie University
- Monash University
- Murdoch University
- Queensland University of Technology
- RMIT University
- Swinburne University of Technology
- The University of Adelaide
- The University of Melbourne
- The University of Queensland
- The University of Sydney
- The University of Western Australia
- University of New England
- University of New South Wales
- University of South Australia
- University of Tasmania
- University of Technology Sydney
- University of the Sunshine Coast
- University of Western Sydney
Participating Indonesian host universities
- Atma Jaya University (Jakarta / West Java)
- Bogor Institute of Agriculture
- Gadjah Mada University (Central Java)
- Indonesian Islamic University (Central Java)
- Muhammadiyah University (East Java)
- Parahyangan Catholic University (West Java)
- Sanata Dharma University (Central Java)
- The University of Indonesia (Jakarta)
Key benefits of ACICIS
Networks: it is clear that ACICIS has an impressive consortium of local Indonesian universities. This useful network has been built over more than a decade by seasoned ‘Indonesianists’. The ACICIS network extends into local organisations, universities, NGOs, AVID, DFAT, businesses and research institutions.
Experience: the board and staff of ACICIS are some of the most knowledgeable and experienced Australians on Indonesia in the world.
Safety: programs with ACICIS are guaranteed to have a degree of security and safety. This is one of the benefits of traveling the certified road ‘more travelled’.
Saving you time
University administration: University administration including filling in all the forms and getting the university to process your applications in a timely manner is often very difficult and definitely time consuming. ACICIS helps you through this process, thus saving you many hours of work and stress.
Visas: One of most important benefits of ACICIS is that it can help you fast-track your visa process or at least facilitate it throughout the bureaucratic process, thereby saving you hundreds of hours (literally hundreds). Despite the significant assistance of ACICIS, this bureaucratic and immigration incoherence continues to be a big problem in wider Indonesia, especially outside of ACICIS reach, in universities and provinces which receive less foreigners and overseas students; see the Great Wall of Indonesia as an example.
Without ACICIS you may be forced to waste many hours collecting dozens of letters, stamps, signatures, etc – ACICIS can help you avoid this. ACICIS may also save you from other hidden costs in terms of phone expenses to call immigration, embassies, consulates and universities. There are also transport costs involved in visiting these offices. The many months of time wasted waiting for long visa processing is probably the biggest loss and means that you will have to apply much earlier. ACICIS helps you avoid these sources of stress and allows you to apply later and put time into more important things.
In a world of perfect efficiency, transparency, and quality customer service at immigration offices, perhaps there would not be such a need for ACICIS visa services. However, in the reality of current Indonesian bureaucracy, there is a clear need for ACICIS.
Areas where we hope to see improvement in the future
*(Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of Asia Options as a whole)
I see a range of areas for future potential from ACICIS. Notwithstanding, constraints resulting from a range of factors including limited budgets, logistical restraints, political factors and other areas. However, these kinds of constraints should not be seen as exclusive to ACICIS. These challenges are, in fact, faced by all organisations attempting to engage and build people-to-people links within the diverse archipelago of Indonesia.
Regional limitations: all of the ACICIS host universities are located in Java. This is a key shortcoming of ACICIS and Australia-Indonesia engagement in general. Through focusing heavily on Java, ACICIS sacrifices the opportunity to gain a truly holistic understanding of the complex diversity of Indonesia.
This shortcoming is most likely a result of budget and time constraints. Java is the easiest island to access and to build links with. It is also closest to the core of the country and therefore experiences less of the challenges of rural and remote development faced in peripheral Indonesia (with the exception of especially remote parts of Eastern Java). However, whilst Java itself displays a great deal of complexity and diversity, the fact remains that Indonesia is more than one island.
I hope to see ACICIS move into other parts of Indonesia, outside of Java. This will really deepen and enrich the cross-cultural education and immersion experience.
More ACICIS information