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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Bjorn H. Nordtveit

Second Advisor

Ash Hartwell

Third Advisor

Michael Hannahan

Subject Categories

Educational Leadership | Educational Psychology | Higher Education Administration | Humane Education | International and Comparative Education


In the context of intractable conflict, a higher education institution, especially a public state university, is not only a learning place for youth aged 18-26 years, but also a symbol of control, power, pride, and identity of dominant regional groups. This condition has made some scholars and practitioners in peacebuilding doubt the capacity of higher education to promote peace and reconciliation in the aftermath of war, arguing that the challenges outweigh the opportunities. Learning from the experience of the alumni of the Non-Violent Study Circles (NVSC) program and their affiliations at the University of Pattimura (UNPATTI), the largest public university in Ambon, Maluku, one of provinces of Indonesia with a history of sectarian conflict, this dissertation aims to identify the challenges and opportunities students faced to promote campus-level reconciliation that transcends communal division. The conceptual framework was developed based on Bar-Tal’s socio-psychological dynamics in intractable conflict, intergroup conflict, and reconciliation strategies. Employing qualitative methods, this study engaged 80 research participants in face-to-face interviews, individually and in small group discussion in addition to observation and secondary data sources. In addition, critical autoethnographic data were added to triangulate findings with the narratives provided by the research participants. The findings revealed that students’ motivation and level of engagement in reconciliation and peacebuilding activities were influenced by their lecturers, mentors, senior students, peers, and parents as internal and external actors who shaped campus political dynamic either toward the culture of conflict or peace. Five dimensions of challenges were identified, namely historical, socio-cultural, political, organizational/structural, behaviour and psychological. To overcome the challenges, students took different actions, including promoting the NVSC program as a medium to develop shared values, facilitating critical dialogues around conflict and identity as well as organizing intergroup art and sport activities. The findings suggested that interventions should start with assessing and dismantling sociopsychological infrastructures (collective memory, collective emotions, and ethos of conflict), creating a safe space for positive intergroup contact, strengthening students’ initiatives to promote a sense of ownership, empowerment, and leadership in the long-term, while maintaining neutrality in the process.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License