I am writing to respond to Sam Rany’s letter from the May 23, 2012 issue that attempted to legitimise the ban by the Royal University of Law and Economics on certain graduate thesis topics.
As far as academic freedom is concerned, I was shocked when I read Sam Rany’s letter that tried to justify RULE’s unacceptable ban. The three justifications he used were (1) to prevent graduate students from facing difficulties when doing their thesis on the stock market, because of their limited English proficiency; (2) to avoid the situation that these students will not have supervisors with sufficient qualifications and expertise on the subject-matter; and finally (3) as the result of (1) and (2), to avoid having potential findings of the research that can be misleading, thus negatively causing ‘internal backlash’.
My position is the ban is not in any way appropriate in the academic world.
First, limited English proficiency amongst graduate students across Cambodia is a common barrier in their academic life. Banning research topics that are to be written in English is no solution to this problem. A possible solution one can imagine of is to allow the students to write their thesis in Khmer.
Secondly, graduate students should work on a thesis topic to be supervised by a supervisor who has adequate expertise of that chosen topic. If a university is not able to provide academic support for students to work on certain areas, the university should instead guide those students to work on their research for which the university could provide support.
Thirdly, while research generally generates findings for implications and applications of certain matters, it does not work like math. In a natural society, there can be many studies on one same topic and these studies can also reveal different, and sometimes contradicting, results, if they are accurate at all. Yet that society will not collapse. Rany’s concern about negative internal backlash to be caused by some inaccurate research findings is nothing but groundless.
If Rany’s proposed justifications for the ban are possible at all, I would like to pose a question — why was the ban made for only certain thesis topics as all of Rany’s justifications will apply to virtually all research topics or areas?
Teacher Educator, Department of English Royal University of Phnom Penh
The views expressed are solely of the author himself and do not reflect the institution’s positions.