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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Let's not confuse real academic degrees with honourary ones

Let's not confuse real academic degrees with honourary ones

Dear Editor,

Regarding the article "Army not to cross border, PM warns" (April 21, 2009), the awarding of doctoral and master's certificates to 22 senior military officials on Monday [in a ceremony during which Prime Minister Hun Sen made his remarks about the military] included a doctor of military science degree granted by the Military Institute of the People's Army of Vietnam. 

I think these officials would be better appreciated if they were working hard and continuing their studies at military academies abroad to improve their skills for the sake of developing our nation rather than getting scholarships for study abroad and, after receiving them, emmigrating to the countries where they studied, having contributed nothing to their homeland.

On the other hand, there has recently been an increase in doctoral graduates from local and international universities to those who want to help improve the Kingdom. There has also been an increase in the number of honourary degrees granted, as we have seen during recent graduation ceremonies in Phnom Penh.   

These honourary doctors have been given to high-ranking government officials and dignitaries by a few local universities. These officials who receive the honourary doctorates are formally referred to as bandeth, or academic doctor, during graduation ceremonies, in the local media and in congratulatory announcements. Using the term bandeth has led to public confusion and misunderstandings about the difference between an honourary doctorate and the doctor of philosophy, or PhD degree, which is the true bandeth.  

In terms of academic study, the two doctor's degrees are completely different. For an academic doctorate, candidates study hard and prepare new research in a thesis that can take between three and five years to complete - sometimes longer depending on the country. In contrast, honourary doctorates require the recipient to do no academic work. They simply receive the degree as an honour bestowed by a university.

Therefore, government officials who have received honourary degrees should not be referred to by colleagues or the local media by the term bandeth, which implies a real academic degree.      

Tong Soprach

Phnom Penh

Send letters to: newsroom@phnompenhpost.com or P.O.鈥圔ox 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.

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