Most high school students perceive the National University Entrance Examination (SNMPTN) as the best way to prove academic superiority and secure university admission, although only 23 percent actually make it to college, an expert says.

Only 90,815 of the 393,168 applicants seeking entrance to state universities have been accepted, meaning the others have to settle for private sector colleges, which are more expensive. 

""There is always a huge gap between the number of applicants and the available places. Yet passing the national entrance exam remains the best way for students to prove their academic standing,"" educationist Arief Rachman said Friday. 

He said high school students continued to take the exam even though a number of state universities offered different methods of entrance, giving places to students with high grades or to those who could afford to pay higher fees, for example. 

""Getting into university through the national entrance exam means the students pay lower fees than they would at a private university. State universities also offer higher education quality since the state controls them,"" Arief said. 

Hadi Suprapto, the head of public relations at the state-run Padjadjaran University (Unpad) in Bandung, said most students could afford to go to the university as tuition was only Rp 600,000 (US$66.66) per semester. 

""We also award scholarships to poor students, as long as they provide evidence of their financial condition,"" he said. 

Of the applicants passing the exam this year nationwide, 44,394 chose scientific studies and 46,421 chose social studies. and 8,815 places in both fields remain unoccupied. The large number of empty places this year is reportedly due to the opening of new state Islamic universities in Makassar and Pekanbaru. 

SNMPTN secretary Soesmalijah Soewondo said the committee would not hold a second exam to fill the empty places. Admission would depend on the policy of the universities, she said. 

""The universities are not required to submit a report to us on their plans to fill their places. It is possible they will remain unoccupied,"" she said. 

Hadi said that on average about 10 percent of the applicants did not register after securing a place. But, in order to avoid having empty places, the university always set a higher quota. 

Besides accepting Indonesian high school students, 129 Malaysian students were also allowed to take the entrance exam this year. Soesmalijah said this was part of a government-to-government agreement that had been running for more than 20 years. (14)
Capacity of state-run universities 
Year Applicants Seats available Number of studies
2002 398,589 81,471 1,471
2003 352,601 82,969 1,583
2004 337,707 86,000 1,615
2005 306,571 84,443 1,721 
2006 343,142 93,741 1,799
2007 393,168 99,630 1,924