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Indonesian Public Officer Graduates from HSE

Indonesian Public Officer Graduates from HSE

Political Analysis and Public Policy is the most popular Master’s programme among HSE’s international students. It draws people with professional experience as well as those fresh from Bachelor’s degrees to do research. Indra Prasetya Adi Nugroho is one of the 2015 new Master’s graduates. He came to HSE from a job in the Indonesian government.

How an Indonesian Government Official Became a Student at HSE

I grew up in a small village on the island of Java and I work in the Indonesian Ministry of Social Affairs. Our ministry is huge and coordinates the work of ten other ministries including health care, sport, religion and education. My job initially was to prepare statistics and analysis for the Minister’s meetings with the President which usually happen once a week. Then I was promoted to a managerial job where I had to organise the Minister’s timetable, plan his visits to various parts of the country, including to places where there are ongoing social, religious and other conflicts.

I ‘m a political sciences graduate and I wanted to develop further in that area. Most Indonesian students who study abroad go to Australia or the US or Europe but I wanted to do something different and I got the idea of coming to Russia in my head. Our perception of Russia has changed. In the 1960s our countries had friendly relations and hundreds of Indonesian students went to study in Soviet universities. But then President Suharto came to power and he banned student exchanges with Russia. At the end of the 1990s, when Indonesia underwent political reform, it all changed again and students had the chance to study in Russia once more.

When Indonesia underwent political reform, it all changed again and students had the chance to study in Russia once more

I saw an advertisement about the Master’s programme in Political Analysis and Public Policy and I thought, right, that’s exactly what I’m after, because it’s connected with my work. I sent in my application - by the way, HSE was the only Russian HEI at the time which accepted electronic applications from foreign students. I did actually apply to a university in New Zealand too but HSE replied to me first. They accepted my application. I had an interview on skype and got the Ministry to agree to let me go for two years ‘on sabbatical’. I was still a government servant but now my duties were studying.  

What to research on a Master’s

I was interested in conflict management. Which methods and instruments states and the international community use to resolve regional conflicts. They are not rare in Indonesia and their origins can be social, ethnic, religious or economic. For example, the government fought with the Free Aceh Movement on Sumatra for many years. In 2005 through the mediation of the Finnish former President, Martti Ahtisaari, the conflict was resolved. I wanted to learn not only why these kinds of conflicts arise but how and who is able to resolve them, what kind of strategies there are and when to use them.

I wrote in my course work about a curious thing: the behaviour of the Indonesian government and of the Free Aceh Movement was seriously affected by two factors, firstly a political one - the fall of the Suharto regime - and secondly a natural one - the consequences of the catastrophic tsunami in 2004. After the tsunami, talks between the government and the separatists speeded up and in just a few months, with mediation from Ahtisaari, they managed to prepare and sign a peace deal that put an end to thirty years of conflict. This is another example of how important the context as well as the cause of a conflict can be.

This case was a major part of my master’s dissertation in which I explored the effectiveness of international participation in solving territorial conflicts. I looked at two other cases besides Aceh, the conflicts in Chechnya and Bosnia Herzegovina. In all three situations, inter-ethnic tensions were central reasons for discord, but they differed in the degree to which the international community was involved. In Bosnia and Herzegovina there was most involvement, in Chechnya, almost none and in Indonesia there was a balance between local and international actors. Examining these cases with Professor Belyaev I formulated three models for conflict management. The first model could be called ‘locking in’ the conflict when the government sees it as an exclusively internal matter. That’s what happened with Chechnya and the international community made no attempts to intervene because the most powerful countries needed Russia as a partner in dealing with global issues (another example of the importance of context).

The Department of Public Policy from the start helps students to work out what they are going to researc

The second model describes the opposite situation - when the state is absolutely powerless to cope with the conflict and the international community has to take on the role, as happened in the Balkans. Here the interesting thing is a relatively new norm in international politics and law - responsibility to protect, according to which if a government is not capable of protecting its citizens then the international community is obliged to do so. My fellow student Adeniyi Fasoro from Nigeria examined this problem and the way it arose in East Timor and Sudan in his dissertation.  

Finally, the third model is that of equal management when a state and the international community combine their efforts, as happened in Indonesia. And I hope that this model could work in other parts of the world facing similar conflicts. There’s no universal remedy and in some cases the ‘closed’ model is the most effective. 

Under the conditions of my contract with the government I am obliged to return to my former post and put the knowledge and experience I’ve acquired into practice. I’d like to give something back to my country. Maybe the models I proposed in my dissertation can be used to resolve conflicts not only on a national scale but at the local level too.   

How the Master’s programme is structured

The Department of Public Policy from the start helps students to work out what they are going to research . You have two years of study so it’s important not to lose time but decide what it is you want to write about. There are special seminars of Global governance about the actors of political change and about institutions. On the one hand they give you a chance to discuss interesting issues and work in groups and on the other they help you chose your dissertation topic.

The first word that comes to mind is ‘possibility’. There really are many possibilities here for Russians and for foreign students. The main thing is to want to make use of them

I went to two winter schools. On the first, I was still in my first year, we made a presentation to about 50 people, most of whom were from Asia. We told them about the department, the courses, how teaching is organised on the programme. Several people applied for the course afterwards. I stayed at the second school for almost a week. It was a great opportunity to talk about my dissertation thesis. And I lead one of the groups at the school which prepared a report on current public policy issues. It was interesting to see how potential Master’s students work with sources and data, how they formulate and argue their positions during debates.

In 2014 I went to the summer school in St Petersburg. There were professors from European universities there. One of the main topics was national identity. I was most interested in the question of Russian identity, is it European or Asian? I also went to a conference directed by Ronald Inglehart which was running at the same time as our school.

How to describe HSE in a few words

The first word that comes to mind is ‘possibility’. There really are many possibilities here for Russians and for foreign students. The main thing is to want to make use of them. Did you know for example that foreign students can apply for bursaries? And there are also academic exchange programmes. Students on our programme go to Turin and Forli, so they can compare academic processes in Russian and Western European universities.

The accommodation is comfortable and we have fast free internet which is important because we also have instant access to the resources of the HSE electronic library. I use them all the time. And the HSE administrative staff are really helpful. They always remind you if your visa is running out and give you all the right papers and any information you need very quickly. I’m very grateful to all the staff in the international student office. Their kindness reminds me of Indonesia where people always help their neighbours and treat other people like brothers and sisters.

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