Post-secondary education in Cambodia: Angkor University

On October 8th, I had the curious circumstance of conducting an impromptu interview with the Vice-Rector of Angkor University in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I have taken some time to write-up a summary of that interview.

On a long search for a bus ticket to Phnom Penh, I passed by a massive and well-kept building, particularly in contrast to its surroundings. I resolved to return after completing my mission. I cycled around the campus, concluding that it was just a single building, with a large open field in front. I was curious to learn more about what a Cambodia university looked like, so I went up to the main entrance.

Angkor University, front entrance (photo from http://www.waymarking.com)

I entered into a long, narrow, room with several doors leading to other parts of the school. Two secretaries were working at a reception desk, while one man stood near the door. As I walked in, he nodded to me, and gestured that I take a seat on the couches.

At first, I thought the man might be a greeter or ambassador for the university, although he looked a quite a bit older than the usual university public relations staff I’ve come across in Canada. He introduced himself as Vice-Rector Tithsothy Dianorin. I was confused – perhaps he was expecting a meeting, but with a different foreigner? However, it quickly became apparent he just wanted to tell me about the university, so I happily obliged with some questions.

Angkor University is attended by a total of 500 students among their Associate Degree (two years), Bachelor’s Degree (four years) and Master’s Degree (six years) programs. The annual fees quoted for me were $300/yr for an Associate Degree, $330/yr for a Bachelor’s Degree and $700/yr for a Master’s Degree. The university offers a diverse array of programs for the size of its student body, with degrees available in management, accounting, technology, English, law, tourism, midwifery and nursing. The languages of instruction include both Khmer and English, although Korean and Japanese language courses are also available.

I was very surprised to learn that Angkor University was one of nine in Siem Reap, a high number for the size of the city. Considering the student population of just 500, I suppose there could be several other institutions of a similar size, and perhaps a couple of larger ones. Angkor University itself was founded just 10 years ago, in 2004.

One thing I found particularly interesting was the university’s Associate Degree program. Mr. Dianorin explained to me that the Associate Degree was a post-secondary qualification available to students who had not completed high-school. It is similar to the way our universities in Canada treat “mature-students,” although he did not mention if there was a certain age minimum. The Associate Degree was a 2-year program, giving students who had not completed secondary for whatever reasons, a chance to attain qualifications relatively quickly, and to enter the workforce. Students could use their Associate Degree as credit towards their Bachelor’s Degree, although taking the two combined required a total of 4.5 years, instead of the usual four. I thought this was a remarkably progressive idea – it provided a foothold for students to re-start their education and possibly achieve a higher-earning job.

Unfortunately, finding employment after graduation was not a sure thing, Mr. Dianorin noted. He mentioned that graduates primarily seek work in the private sector. “We do not have many jobs in the public sector in Cambodia,” he admitted.

The university does have plans for the future. “We want to expand; we want to get bigger,” Mr. Dianorin told me. In particular, Angkor University is trying to build relationships with post-secondary institutions in Japan and Korea. This would allow them to expand their language programs, set up learning exchanges for their students, and provide opportunities for either work abroad, or for increased tourism with those two countries.

More information on Angkor Univesrity can be found at www.angkor.edu.kh

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