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Moratorium on new universities

Students enter Panassastra University on Sothearos Boulevard for their evening classes in Phnom Penh earlier this month
Students enter Panassastra University on Sothearos Boulevard for their evening classes in Phnom Penh earlier this month. Pha Lina

Moratorium on new universities

The Ministry of Education has vowed to shift its focus from the quantity of the country’s universities to their quality by instituting a moratorium on the approval of new institutions, officials said yesterday.

Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron said that with more than 100 universities already established nationwide, he plans to temporarily put a stop to the creation of any more.

“We [will] temporarily suspend the set-up of [universities], because now we have 105 schools, which is too many. We have 39 public institutions and 66 private ones,” Chuon Narong told the Post yesterday, without elaborating on how long this ban would be enforced.

“We have to strengthen the quality of education, focusing on improving the quality of professors who have to be trained up to masters or [PhD level], and we also have to streamline the curriculum. If we still let them create more tertiary institutions, the quality will decline,” he said.

The number of students continuing their education to university level has increased dramatically in Cambodia over the past few decades, with just 10,000 in 1990 compared to 250,000 last year, according to the Ministry of Education. But the number of professors has not kept pace.

“We see colleges and universities that have a lot of students but the number of professors is small, so we want to train them for capacity,” said Yok Ngov, secretary of state at the Ministry of Education.

But, according to Yok Ngov, while the ministry will restrict the creation of institutions – particularly private ones – focusing on social studies, it will still encourage the establishment of those teaching subjects such as science and engineering.

Santosh Khatri, UNESCO Cambodia education specialist, yesterday lauded the ministry’s plans to put a stop to new institutions and reform existing ones.

“We have seen incredible expansion in terms of the number of higher education institutions in the country, but it is extremely critical to focus on the quality of higher education,” he said by email, adding that problems facing the sector include a shortage of qualified professors and “adequate teaching-learning facilities.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ALICE CUDDY

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