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Higher-ed code remains stalled

Higher-ed code remains stalled

Delays in passing the law designed to regulate Cam-bodia's universities has raised

fears that the long-awaited higher education reforms will be de-railed.

"I don't know how long the World Bank can commit for this project because they

have other demands," said secretary of state at the Ministry of Education (MoE)

Pok Than. "To hold it further I think we're jeopardizing the loan. If we don't

pass the law by this month, I think they'll have to use [the money] for other areas

in other countries."

Most education officials agree that the legal framework to create the Accreditation

Committee of Cambodia is essential if the country is to set quality standards for

higher education.

The World Bank requires that an accreditation law is promulgated before it will release

a $30 million loan to introduce reforms starting next academic year.

"The Bank sees the passing of a higher education law in Cambodia ... as indispensable

for the success of any project," said lead economist at the Bank, Peter Moock.

A draft of the proposed law has since May been with the Council of Universities,

which is chaired by Senior Minister Sok An. Despite the members reportedly agreeing

on the text, Sok An has yet to call a final meeting, which means the law remains

stalled.

Once the body approves the law, it will be sent to Prime Minister Hun Sen, who will

then forward it to the King to be promulgated.

Pok Than said the World Bank's loan would allow hundreds of teachers to obtain graduate

degrees, equip all university libraries with books and internet capability, and provide

financial management and curriculum development courses.

Fran Kemmerer, an advisor to the MoE's department of higher education, said that

the lack of a law meant no framework and no new resources for universities.

"It's hard to know how we can move forward," Kemmerer said, warning that

the law needed to be passed immediately.

"It's really critical because new institutions are opening and none of the institutions

are strong," said Kemmerer. "The public needs information about which places

meet the minimum standard and which don't."

The World Bank and some bilateral donors started examining the country's higher education

sector in 1995. Hopes were high among the Cambodian attendees that the law would

be passed rapidly after a well-received workshop on the issue in early August.

But four months later, Than and other council members are waiting for the meeting

so that they can make progress. Pok Than said the law had been discussed at least

three times, and all were satisfied with the draft text.

"Sok An is the man to talk to. He's promised three times already that they'd

speed it up," said Than. "I've asked him to convene the final meeting but

he still hasn't done it."

Sok An was not available for comment at press time.

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