In general, the history of higher education in Indonesia was started in the early 20th century when the Dutch colonial government established the Technische Hogeschool (THS) in Bandung in 1920. However, the forerunner of higher education in Indonesia has been sown by the colonial government in the mid-century 19 with the establishment of the School tot Opleiding voor Indies Arsten (STOVIA), a medical education institution in Batavia Java.

The institution to temporarily take over the role that should be played by higher education institutions, considering STOVIA when it was first established no more than secondary schools to educate become Medisch vaccinateur (interpreter smallpox) with only two years of schooling. STOVIA increase the educational institution of higher education that is equivalent to new in 1902 with a seven-year study period and graduates are given the title Inlandsche Arts (Doctor Bumiputera). In the following period also established the School of Law for the class Bumiputra (Opleidingschool van Inlandsche Rechtkundigen) in 1909 in the same city, and a medical school in Surabaya in 1913, named Nederlandsch Indische Arsten School (NIAS) with a seven-year study period.

With the establishment of NIAS STOVIA and then in Indonesia has two higher education institutions in medicine administered by the colonial government. It is interesting why the forerunner of universities in Indonesia is not a medical educational institutions or technical education institutions of legal education. This is closely related to the perception of Westerners living in Indonesia at the time the view that Indonesia's natural and daily behavior of people is a source of disease. Indonesia is located in the tropical region is a fertile ground for breeding disease. In addition, the daily behavior of people is also very unhealthy.

The houses are made of improvised materials such as woven bamboo and a roof of thatch which is a very favored by rats. Defecation is also done in any place that is certainly an effective medium for the spread of the disease. Public behavior that is very unhealthy and natural conditions are very humid tropical with high rainfall became an effective medium to an outbreak of a disease. Such conditions are frightening European population living in Indonesia. 

Various attempts were made so that they are not infected by these tropical diseases. So established medical colleges so that graduates are expected to play an active role in preventing the onset of various diseases. Therefore it can be concluded that the establishment of institutions of medical education at first is solely for the benefit of European society. Treatment and health education to indigenous communities at that time essentially is to ward off the disease will spread and infect people of Europe.

When the need for medical personnel is higher, then the colonial government intends to expand medical education not only in Batavia but also in Surabaya. This idea emerged in 1911 were motivated by a desire to increase the number of doctors and consider the reports that medical education system that had been running need to get improvements. However, the development effort was opposed by European doctors graduated from the Netherlands. According to them the establishment of medical education institutions for indigenous and Indo groups will not produce a competent doctor.

When NIAS will be erected in the city of Surabaya in Indonesia European doctors who are members of the Bond van Geneesheers denounce the government's intention that through bulletins issued by the association in September 1912. They say that the group Bumiputra not proficient in work and tend to be lazy. Bumiputra group considered reluctant if the work is going to be examined as a result of his work did not stand the test and critique. Rarely found properties steadfast willingness on their willingness except in cases doing all evil. Nothing a good that should be expected from their side. 

A very rough satire of European doctors to communities Indo in Indonesia. The above quotation also implies that the colonial establishment of educational institutions ranging from primary education to higher education based on racial sentiments and based on social status.  Although the critique is very keen on the association of European doctors, but in 1913 the colonial government decided to establish a medical school in the city of Surabaya named Nederlandsch-Indische Artsen school (NIAS). At the beginning of medical education institution is led by Dr. A.E. Sitsen derived from STOVIA Batavia.       

 As part of the colonial system, education in this period is elitist and only a limited circle touching. Bumiputra group who touched the education system is confined to the aristocracy, the group that is actively exploited by the colonial government to perpetuate its power and as a tool for wealth mengesploitasi the Earth Indonesia.

Lower middle class people can come into contact with the modern education system only on a certain level that does not allow the horse to perform to the maximum vertical mobility. Colonial exploitation based on the traditional power has forced the colonial government to empower the ruling families through traditional channels of modern education. They are aware that children nobility who already have traditional powers will someday be part of the group that will facilitate the efforts of the colonial government to manage the colonies they were earned.