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Higher education enrolment shrinks

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Cambodian Higher Education Association chairman Heng Vanda. Hong Menea

Higher education enrolment shrinks

The number of students enrolled in higher educational institutions in the new academic year has decreased compared to previous years, a trend which the education sector largely blames on the Covid-19 crisis.

Cambodian Higher Education Association chairman Heng Vanda told The Post on January 18 that since the Covid-19 outbreak students across all private universities, including his Vanda Institute had stopped paying tuition fees.

As for the new academic year, only about 40 per cent of students at Vanda Institute resumed their studies while others had temporarily suspend their studies and stopped paying tuition fees.

“Compared to the years before the pandemic, student enrolments for this year have dropped by around 40 per cent,” he said.

Vanda added that in the first enrolment drive last year, which was done just before the pandemic, his institute signed up 1,500 students. But this year’s first enrolments have dropped to less than 1,000.

“After checking with other universities, I noticed my institution had the highest enrolments. The Covid-19 crisis is to be blamed for the decline,” he said.

According to Vanda, about 80 per cent of students who pursue their study in Phnom Penh are from the provinces.

He said most of those students have to rent a house to stay and find a job to support their living and study expenses.

Rotha Puthika, the head of public relations at Paragon International University, said on January 18 that their number of students enrolled in the new academic year, which began on January 18, was about the same as last year.

“We hope to have more [new students] than last year by the closing date of our enrolment,” she said.

Puthika said that currently his university offers bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes. For the former, there are nine majors for students to choose.

Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport spokesman Ros Soveacha said on January 18 that the ministry’s Department of Higher Education has submitted a list of candidates who have applied for undergraduate scholarships for the 2020-2021 academic year at higher educational institutions.

“All 39 public and private higher educational institutions that are offering more than 9,000 scholarships will review the applications,” he said.

Chhort Bunthang, director of the International Relations Institute’s culture, education and tourism department under the Royal Academy of Cambodia, has observed that the number of educational establishments offering tertiary education has surpassed demands.

“Even without Covid-19, student enrolments at higher educational institutions would still more or less decline because there are more schools than students,” he said.

Bunthang added that because the families of students who want to pursue their study are facing difficulties amid the Covid-19 crisis, higher educational institution should reduce the tuition fee to some extent.

According to the education ministry, nearly 120,000 students were allowed to skip their Grade 12 examinations in the 2019-2020 academic year.

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