Education officials said the World Bank has deferred a $30 million loan to
regulate higher education after changes to the draft legal framework effectively
politicized a proposed higher education body and rendered it
The changes were made on February 21 by the Council of
Universities (CoU), which is chaired by Senior Minister Sok An. The draft
regulations are to determine the rules under which the accreditation-issuing
body would operate. There are currently no standards regulating the country's
higher education system.
The World Bank sent a team to Phnom Penh in late
February to appraise the status of the legal framework to create the
Accreditation Committee of Cambodia, which has been stalled at the CoU since
"The World Bank thought doing what the CoU proposed would make the
committee more political," said the Ministry of Education (MoE) secretary of
state Pok Than. "It would undermine the professionalism and the technical
capability of the committee."
The amendment to which the World Bank and
the ministry most objected was one that named CoU chairman Sok An to the
position of Permanent Vice-Chair of the Accreditation Committee.
proposal, said Than, had essentially stripped the body of its
The $30 million loan was to be spent on allowing hundreds
of teachers to obtain graduate degrees, equip all university libraries with
books and internet capability, and provide financial management and curriculum
But Cambodia first had to pass a law establishing a
competent higher education accreditation committee in order to secure the
Another objectionable change to the draft made it optional rather
than compulsory to invite two experts in accreditation to sit on the committee.
The third disputed change, said Pok Than, was that the body would have three
additional members on the committee: representatives from the ministries of
agriculture, health and culture.
The amendments to the draft has
disheartened many within the MoE.
"It is truly stuck," said Fran
Kemmerer, an advisor to the MoE's education department. "The law that was given
to the Council would create an independent, professional and transparent
accreditation body to review all institutions of higher education, public and
When asked why the CoU made the unpopular amendments to the
draft, Sok An said he did not "want to make any comments at the
MoE officials said it was now too late to receive the loan this
fiscal year. Pok Than said he had asked the CoU to wait until after the general
election in July before it sent the law to Prime Minister Hun Sen, but was
unsure if that would happen. "I'm disappointed. I thought it was going to be
smooth sailing," he said.