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Government scraps deposits for higher education bodies

Graduates at the Royal University of Phnom Penh in 2014.
Graduates at the Royal University of Phnom Penh in 2014. Pha Lina

Government scraps deposits for higher education bodies

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday approved a request by the Higher Education Association of Cambodia to waive deposits for higher education institutions opening in the Kingdom, raising concerns yesterday over the quality of education on offer given the weakness of many existing universities.

The Council of Ministers on Monday released a statement highlighting the outcome of a meeting between the premier and the association. It says the government agreed on some points, including waiving the deposits and cancelling the requirement for higher education institutions to renew their licences every five years.

Heng Vanda, chairman of the Higher Education Association, said the deposit requirement was instituted three or four years ago but also applied retroactively to existing universities, and that many institutions have not yet made the $40,000 because they couldn’t afford it.

“We just don’t have the money for the deposit,” he said. “The prime minister said there is no need to [make] a deposit. He wants to make use of the money to enhance the education quality.”

There are more than 100 public and private universities in Cambodia. Vanda said the move would not encourage more universities to open because a moratorium on new universities by Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron has been in place since 2014.

Despite the moratorium, however, social media star and ruling party booster Thy Sovantha was granted a licence by the Ministry of Education to start a university in October 2016. Chuon Naron couldn’t be reached yesterday for clarification, and ministry spokesman Ros Salin didn’t respond to calls or a request for comment.

Vanda added that in the event a university went bankrupt, the deposit wouldn’t be enough to compensate affected students, anyway.

Still, San Chey, of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said waiving the deposit “is very risky for students, because when private universities go bankrupt, the victims are the students”.

“We don’t want private universities to focus on profit rather than providing quality education to students,” he added.

Rath Chhang, deputy secretary-general of the Accreditation Committee of Cambodia, said 48 higher education institutions have undergone an internal quality improvement assessment and overall, the quality was unsatisfactory in terms of teaching, staffing, curricula and infrastructure. No Cambodian universities have been accredited yet.

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