As part of the USAID HELM project in Indonesia, Universitas Negeri Semarang (UNNES) in Semarang, Indonesia, has used action research to improve graduation rates.


UNNES is a university partner of USAID’s Higher Education Leadership and Management (HELM), implemented by Chemonics. Since 2012, HELM has worked since 2012 with twenty-five higher education institutions to use action research to address challenges unique to each institution. Action research uses research to address an immediate problem, mobilizing a team to solve the problem and produce best practice guidelines.

Each institution participating in HELM’s action research program identified a challenge at their own institution impacting the institution’s ability to serve its students and often the greater community, and representatives from four of these teams, including UNS, will present at this year’s Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) annual conference, held this week in Washington, DC.

The UNNES action research team, including CIES presenter and Head of Quality Assurance Dr. Heri Yanto, identified on-time graduation as a problem, and found that most of the delays were due to students’ failure to complete their theses in a timely fashion. UNNES rolled out a simple system where students and their faculty thesis supervisors recorded their 12 required thesis meetings, and faculty were able to oversee the progress of their students towards completing their theses.

Department heads were able to access the data entered into the system and hold their lecturers accountable, and this use of data and technology led to the dramatic change mentioned above in on-time graduation. UNNES team member Luthfi Fathan noted that “HELM has provided a way for us to build a better relationship and a road map, between the data that that we have and the people who can now use that data to create significant academic and administrative policy.”

This is just one case study that HELM will present on Thursday, March 12. Come join us at CIES to hear how UNNES, Univeritas Andalas, Univeritas Sriwijaya, and Univeritas Muhammadiyah Malang have used action research to make a difference in the quality of their research and academic programming!