With support from the US Department of State, 10 Cambodian leaders in higher education participated in the 10-day International Visitors Leadership Programme (IVLP) in three US states from June 19 to July 1.
They included nine university rectors and directors of higher education institutions who are members of the Council of Rectors of Cambodia, as well as one senior official from the Directorate General of Higher Education at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.
The primary purpose of the programme is to foster international understanding through the exchange of information and ideas between the people of the US and other countries.
Hor Peng, the rector of the National University of Management, told The Post that he learned from and exchanged ideas with US counterparts during the visit.
“The visit enabled us to build university-to-university cooperation and networks both with US university leaders and individually.
“I am now better able to understand the American and Cambodian education systems. We learned a lot from each other, enabling us to have new ideas to better organise universities for the future,” Peng said.
Weighing how universities are organised in the US, the programme builds leadership capacity, he added.
Thun Vathana, the director of Prek Leap National College of Agriculture, who also participated in the programme, told The Post that the IVLP provided several important experiences.
“There were three important points that we gained from the programme, with the first being the acquiring of a better understanding of the US education system at the federal level.
“Having the opportunity to examine the quality of higher education in the US was also important, as was looking at the administration and leadership of the universities,” Vathana said.
Since 1994, the US Embassy in Cambodia has sent 205 visitors from the Kingdom to participate in the programme, including distinguished guests from parliament, potential leaders in the government, educators, journalists, economists, human right activists and NGO leaders.
IVLP aims to provide better understanding of the US education system at the federal, state and local levels, and examine the roles of universities in research and innovation, as well as how the academic community and industry work together to address pressing social issues.
The project also seeks to provide knowledge on university administration and leadership, as well as how to build a career path in academia to attract more people to the field.
It also explores the roles of communities in school development and outlines how the US teaches and supports incubation, accelerator and start-up programmes.
During the visit, the Cambodian rectors met with their US counterparts and visited a number of professional organisations, while they were also given time for cultural activities and to meet American people.
The IVLP, established in 1952, is the US Department of State’s premier professional exchange programme.
Through short-term visits to the US, current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience the country first hand and cultivate lasting relationships with their US counterparts, with the meetings held reflecting the participants’ professional interests.
The IVLP brings to the US approximately 5,000 foreign nationals annually from all over the world to meet and confer with their professional counterparts and to experience the country firsthand.
This year’s programme started in Washington DC with overviews of the US federal system of government, higher education accreditation, education in the US and trends in University administration and leadership.
Speakers from George Mason University, George Washington University, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the Department of State discussed each topic.
Public University Research and Innovation Programs in North Carolina, Public University Systems Role of Community Colleges in Supporting Non-Traditional Students, State Funding, Support, and Reforms in Higher Education were explored during the next study visit to Raleigh, North Carolina.
The speakers hailed from Wake community college, the University of North Carolina at Raleigh and the North Carolina legislative office.
“The last four points we learned in North Carolina were about funding, support and reforms in higher education, all of which come from the state budget for higher education.
“We gained experience related to research at the university and the various innovative programmes that the university has established. We also looked at the state university system and the role of community colleges,” Vathana said.
He added that while community colleges mostly helped educate and train non-traditional students, such as older people who did not go to university, younger students also attended to gain qualifications.
The final set of programmes were held the University of Colorado at Boulder, with the themes Public University Research and Innovation Programs in Colorado, Career Paths for Academia, Entrepreneurial Programs, and Contemplative Education and Current Social Issues.
“As in North Carolina, at the University of Colorado at Boulder we looked at various innovations at that university, as well as the student experience related to looking for jobs.
“We also looked at entrepreneurship, which means how the student understands entrepreneurship while he or she is studying at university,” Vathana said.