The voice of the student body at the University of Agriculture has been heard by university authorities. A week after students protested outside the university, accusing school officials of pocketing their tuition fees in lieu of paying lecturers, authorities have agreed to raise salaries of university lecturers.
Salaries will be raised to US$5 dollars an hour for bachelors-level lectures, $6 an hour for masters-level lecturers and $7 an hour for lecturers with a doctorate degree. The previous hourly rates were $2.23 per hour. While the new pay is an improvement, it is still significantly less than the pay at private universities such as Pannasastra who pay lecturers between $10-20 an hour.
While the impact of low salaries for lecturers was obvious at the University of Agriculture when some lecturers stopped teaching their classes, the quality of education for students at many of Cambodia’s higher education institutions is affected by their professors’ salaries.
Many people who make their living teaching at universities must teach classes at multiple institutions in order to take home a salary that they feel matches their qualifications. The result is that professors are over-extended and students do not receive the attention that they desire.
“Some professors come to class a half hour late and leave a half hour early,” said a fourth-year female scholarship student in RUPP’s law program who asked not to be named. “For the last half hour of class we just sit around and talk.”
The education for students at private universities also suffers from the over-extension of professors. Kieng Rotana, Vice Chancellor of Pannasastra University, said that occasionally he has to reign in professors who are not devoting enough time to their classes. “When we see that a professor is teaching at least 18 hours at our university and is teaching somewhere else, we tell them they must stop,” he explained.
In order to ensure that universities are allocating an appropriate amount of their budget to teachers’ salaries, the Accreditation Committee of Cambodia (ACC) will include a financial review as part of their institutional reviews which will begin next year with funding from the World Bank.
“Institutions must make their financial management and recruitment transparent,” said Pen Sithol, director of the department of standards and accreditation which oversees the ACC, adding that universities are already required to file financial reports with the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
Higher education institutions must hire qualified teachers in order to keep up with a rising demand for quality education among the Kingdom’s university students. However, experienced lecturers are expensive, and many schools are barely able to remain operational as it is. Perhaps events at the University of Agriculture will set a new precedent when authorities face similar situations.