Delays in passing the law designed to regulate Cam-bodia's universities has raised
fears that the long-awaited higher education reforms will be de-railed.
"I don't know how long the World Bank can commit for this project because they
have other demands," said secretary of state at the Ministry of Education (MoE)
Pok Than. "To hold it further I think we're jeopardizing the loan. If we don't
pass the law by this month, I think they'll have to use [the money] for other areas
in other countries."
Most education officials agree that the legal framework to create the Accreditation
Committee of Cambodia is essential if the country is to set quality standards for
The World Bank requires that an accreditation law is promulgated before it will release
a $30 million loan to introduce reforms starting next academic year.
"The Bank sees the passing of a higher education law in Cambodia ... as indispensable
for the success of any project," said lead economist at the Bank, Peter Moock.
A draft of the proposed law has since May been with the Council of Universities,
which is chaired by Senior Minister Sok An. Despite the members reportedly agreeing
on the text, Sok An has yet to call a final meeting, which means the law remains
Once the body approves the law, it will be sent to Prime Minister Hun Sen, who will
then forward it to the King to be promulgated.
Pok Than said the World Bank's loan would allow hundreds of teachers to obtain graduate
degrees, equip all university libraries with books and internet capability, and provide
financial management and curriculum development courses.
Fran Kemmerer, an advisor to the MoE's department of higher education, said that
the lack of a law meant no framework and no new resources for universities.
"It's hard to know how we can move forward," Kemmerer said, warning that
the law needed to be passed immediately.
"It's really critical because new institutions are opening and none of the institutions
are strong," said Kemmerer. "The public needs information about which places
meet the minimum standard and which don't."
The World Bank and some bilateral donors started examining the country's higher education
sector in 1995. Hopes were high among the Cambodian attendees that the law would
be passed rapidly after a well-received workshop on the issue in early August.
But four months later, Than and other council members are waiting for the meeting
so that they can make progress. Pok Than said the law had been discussed at least
three times, and all were satisfied with the draft text.
"Sok An is the man to talk to. He's promised three times already that they'd
speed it up," said Than. "I've asked him to convene the final meeting but
he still hasn't done it."
Sok An was not available for comment at press time.