Prime Minister Hun Sen praised the progress of major state universities based in the capital, including the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), National University of Management (NUM) and Royal University of Law and Economics (RULE).

While addressing more than 6,000 RULE graduates on November 1, Hun Sen said he considered the progress a tribute to the achievements of the older generations, who laid the foundation for the success of the university. He commended RULE for continuing to improve its quality as well as its prestige.

“RULE comes from humble origins. In 1982, it was a zinc-roofed old building, and the campus was simply partitioned off from the grounds of Boeung Trabek High School,” he said.

“Now, apart from Cambodians, RULE has many foreign students enrolled, including those from the US, South Korea and other major countries around the world. Of all of the universities and colleges in Phnom Penh, this school has the largest foreign student body,” he noted.

Cambodian Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun is of the view that more need to be done to bring Cambodia’s tertiary education to another level.

“It’s a good sign that some public universities are gaining the attention of foreign students. However, as a researcher and educator, I can see that these universities still have educational gaps that require more attention and investment. There is still room to improve quality and develop our educational institutions,” he said.

“If we look at the ranking of universities in the world, no university in Cambodia is mentioned, whereas some ASEAN institutes are. Public and private universities in Cambodia have not yet reached a level where they are competitive internationally,” he added.

According to Open Development Cambodia – an online hub that compiles and provides up-to-date information on the country’s socio-economic development – the Kingdom has not yet become a knowledge-based society and is seeking to shift from its current status as a labour-intensive society.

Currently, higher education institutions (HEIs) in Cambodia can be divided into three categories: Royal Academy, University and College.

Higher education qualifications available in Cambodia include an associate’s degree, a four-year bachelor’s degree, a two-year master’s degree, and a three- to six-year doctorate.

Enrollment in HEIs has grown from just 28,080 students in 2000 to more than 200,000 – including 155 international students – in the 2020-2021 academic year.