The university undergoes metamorphosis with the development of the times. Society is beginning to question the function and role of universities because of the changes. Will the university become an elite institution, which only accommodates groups of the rich? Or the university will still stick to its basic spirit as an institution that ‘maintains and develops civilization’, encouraging the improvement of people’s welfare through widening access to the world of higher education?
If the first answer is confirmed, then what then appears is that the universities can only accommodate ‘city people’, while the ‘village people’ are increasingly difficult to enter to the ‘urban university’. The villagers would still enter, if they were able to provide fees, into the ‘university’. This means that access to the possibility of vertical mobility of the village people is still experiencing bulkheads. The bulkhead is in the form of the increasing cost required by a village—even if he is smart and brilliant—to be able to improve his abilities in universities. A group of higher education institutions that are considered to have better facilities, teaching staff and ‘academic standing’. So, people ask: What does the Urban University mean? Why the impression that arises later in the form of things that are elitism, expensive financing, and institutions that favor a group of financially capable people?
Urban University, in the beginning, developed from a desire and commitment that to advance a society required more intense interaction between university institutions and the existing community. The main assumption rests on the argument that ‘the city change, so does the urban university’. Cities are undergoing major changes. Society has also changed. The behavior and demands of members of the community in urban areas have also changed. There is interdependence and interaction that cannot be separated between the change of society and the role of university institutions.
University institutions have a mission to maintain and build pluralism, multiculturalism in society through what we often hear as ‘moral and social forces’. This motto—if it may be said to be the motto—means that our higher education institutions have an important task to transfer new values, new consensus, as well as developing a new community structure, which is more compatible with the changes experienced by society. If society has changed, then the university must change, and vice versa.
Therefore, one of the ‘tasks‘ of the university (Urban University) is to test or examine the existing and developing systems of the city community, to then build the system and structure of the city’s society returned to a better direction, more in accordance with the aspirations and development of civilization. University is also tasked with collecting new knowledge, developing new technologies, and being a catalyst for cultural and economic revitalization in society.
Testing the system and structure of society is carried out by university institutions through improving technological capabilities, sharing information, and encouraging the creation of a workforce which is well educated and well trained. In other words, urban universities serve to help find solutions to problems faced by urban communities, not to seek or cultivate capital, so that the Urban University is placed as an institution looking for rent. More straightforwardly, we can state that the mission and task of the Urban University is to respond, to change, to find challenges, and to expand or to seize the opportunities to and within society.
The question then is what is being experienced by our universities, right now, is very much related to how our higher education institutions, can stay alive in the current change in a very competitive and liberal society. There is the trend that our urban universities, currently, are experiencing a decline in the number of incoming students, facing obstacles to operational financing of education, as well as limited development of academic (inadequate facilities and infrastructure, poorly qualified lecturers, less skilled administrative personnel, non-standard management, unqualified leadership). That is why, the trend experienced by the urban university was handled in various ways. The most common way done by our universities is to increase the amount of student capacity by ignoring the ‘academic standing’, and increasing the burden of fees on students.
The way taken by the urban university resulted in a decrease in academic quality, because the teaching and learning process decreased. Universities are experiencing ‘overcrowded’ and ‘under finance’ situations, so public services are becoming very poor. And what surprised the most’ of society was the commercialization of universities. The ideals of the Urban University have become neglected. That ideal was tarnished by the pressure of a situation that required university institutions not to go bankrupt. The question then: What should be done so that the Urban University maintains its noble commitment and goals as outlined above? There is something that the urban university must do so that it can get out of the depressed situation, and return to its main spirit, among others:
First, the Urban University must build a public service support system that is always obedient to the university’s position as a ‘service institution’. The standard of service in organizing education is one of the keys so that urban universities can maintain their interaction with the wider community.
Second, the urban university should be prepared as an anticipatory institution. In this sense, university institutions must have a degree of sensitivity to any kind of change that occurs in the midst of society. Thus, he was able to explore and develop relationships with various institutions outside the university.
Third, the urban universities must be able to build ‘partnerships’, strategic partnerships within educational management practices. Without having a solid ‘partnership’ building with elements of institutions outside the university, the urban university will be isolated, and then the university is unable to withstand the currents of very big change.
Fourth, the urban universities should also start developing what I refer to as ‘university community groups’. During this time, attention to it is still very traditional, such as relying only on alumni of university graduates. Unfortunately, such resources are not built to enlarge the space and carrying capacity for the development of the university. Our urban universities only function this alumni community when needed. They are not treated as assets that can play a strategic role to become a frontier in building universities.
Fifth, the university must standardize the various facilities it has, so that it deserves and qualifies as an ‘Urban University’. A higher education institution that has a noble mission to help the development and improvement of community welfare.
Sixth, the urban universities must carry out the expansion of ‘university advertising’ as a means of developing and strengthening the ‘brand image’, ‘trademark’, so that the university institution becomes a ‘lasting attraction’ towards the community, especially regarding the quality of service, and academic standards.
Seventh, the urban universities must also be able to develop ‘income generating‘ models that allow themselves not to be fixated with the charge of fees to students. University incubator businesses that function for profit, by ‘exploiting’ the excellence of professional expertise and the skills of their citizens, are very possible to be developed. Thus, the development of the City University does not collide with the aspirations of the community, let alone rural communities that are economically limited.
The seven efforts of the Urban University that can be developed, in fact, boil down to public services. Our urban universities, in fact, are very weak in this sector. Therefore, the strengthening in the seven efforts above is urgent that our city universities develop rapidly, reasonably and obtain a good enough ‘academic standing’, accompanied by the still openness of the village people to enter the institution of this ‘Urban University’. Thus, the ‘Urban University’ remains an institution that bears the responsibility of building civilization of a nation and help modernize society.
Will our universities, which will soon transform themselves into institutions incorporated in education, still maintain their main spirit as institutions of civilization, which then they are not plunged by the magnitude of capital attraction? Will our university institutions be able to make a significant contribution in ‘accompanying’ society to face change? Will there be educational policies, especially for higher education levels, that still support the idealism of universities as institutions that ‘accommodate and maintain’ pluralism and multiculturalism of society? Our history will record it.