The effectiveness of Indonesia’s Australian development scholarships in contributing to organisation development: a case study of re-integration of alumni in the Ministry of Finance

2017-02-21T23:43:41Z (GMT) by Chalid, Muhammad Noor Halil
Since the Colombo Plan in the 1950s, scholarships have been a part of Australia’s strategy to help develop Indonesia’s human resource capacity. The Australian Development Scholarships (ADS) scheme – the flagship of Australia’s scholarships scheme in Indonesia – has been in operation since 1998. While the benefits of the scholarships scheme have historically been regarded as self-evident, the benefits these students derive from studying in Australia are difficult to quantify. Early evaluation of the scheme has focused largely on the benefits to individual scholars, with less emphasis on the impact on the organisations to which the alumni return. While studies in this area have contributed to the focus of this study, few have focused on education as aid, the outcomes of scholarships on returning alumni or, in particular, the linkage between alumni and their home organisations. This study investigates the effectiveness of the ADS scheme in contributing to organisation development through a case study of the re-integration of AusAID-funded ADS alumni within the context of the Government of Indonesia’s Ministry of Finance. The aim is to see the effectiveness and impact of the policy of providing concentrations of scholarships within an organisation and, specifically, the impact that returning scholars – who may begin to form a critical mass – are having within their organisations. The empirical study is based on data from 29 qualitative interviews – supported by observation and policy document review – with three groups of purposefully selected participants: ADS alumni, ADS liaison officers, and ADS alumni supervisors. These groups were selected given their distinctive, interconnecting roles in the context of effective human resource management and, in particular, management of the ADS scheme in the agencies. The interviews were conducted in the Ministry of Finance in 2011. Key findings show that the non-academic, social dimension of the in-Australia study experience was highly valued by alumni, as much as or even more than the academic experience the ADS awards are ostensibly designed to support. The ADS experience fundamentally allows the development of the whole individual, both academically and non-academically. This research highlights the importance of soft skills and intercultural competency. The development of these through the in-Australia ADS scheme – irrespective of the field of study – appears to hold the key to understanding alumni employability, providing better awareness of the full suite of skills and competencies that alumni bring to a workplace. This leads to the more effective utilisation of the alumni and, in turn, more effective Australian scholarships. This study highlights the importance of bureaucratic reform in the Ministry of Finance as the macro-contextual environment in which the agencies researched in this study operate. It argues that this environment both enables and inhibits the utilisation of ADS awards within these agencies. Bureaucratic reform is the notable factor contributing to change in the workplace environment and culture. Finally, this study highlights the key role played by the supervisors of the returning ADS alumni with reference to both the bureaucratic reform process and the aims and objectives of the ADS scheme. It argues that the supervisors’ strategic role in the agencies as middle managers has the potential to increase the effective utilisation of alumni in relation to their technical skills, soft skills, and intercultural competency for the organisation’s benefits. Overall, this study demonstrates that employing sociology – and specifically organisation development – as a framework of analysis can provide a more nuanced understanding of the aspirations, experiences, and outcomes of ADS alumni in the context of scholarship impact assessment, and is considered as one of the contributions of sociology to the field.