Cambodia is starting to address tertiary education quality

CAMBODIA PLUS BACK TO WORK MAY 09 407

I recall talking to a teacher about his tertiary studies at a local Siem Reap university and he explained how hard it was to understand his lecturers – most of whom were Filipinos who spoke in a very hard to understand accent: hard enough for a westerner to understand but nigh on impossible for young Cambodian students who already found English a struggle. The picture didn’t conjure up the sense that this education would be a quality experience. Elsewhere I’ve seen textbooks set by lecturers that are completely inappropriate for the material covered in the course. What are they thinking?

The Ministry of Education Youth & Sport has obviously been wondering the same thing, and has been implementing a project designed to evaluate, monitor and lift the standards, (the HEQCIP for those who collect acronyms.)

Below is the Ministry’s own statement on the matter. This year the tertiary sector has been under real pressure because the intake of Grade 12 graduates from the high school system effectively halved thanks to a clamp-down on cheating (by students and complicit teachers,) so that the burgeoning flow of new students slowed dramatically – cutting the cashflow of the largely private university sector and creating a climate in which more, rather than less, corners are being cut.

Higher Education Quality and Capacity Improvement Project (HEQCIP)

The higher education system in Cambodia has changed greatly over the past 10 years as the number of private universities has grown considerably. On the one hand, this development has expanded the opportunities for a large pool of students to further their education; on the other hand, it has highlighted the significant and complex challenges faced by the overall system of higher education and individual universities, both public and private, during this period of rapid growth. While the establishment in 2003 of the Accreditation Committee of Cambodia (ACC) introduced much-needed elements of quality assurance into the system, the management of higher education in the country remains difficult and needs to be clarified and strengthened across several key dimensions, including the strengthening of institutional and organizational capacity. It is most urgent, however, to improve human capacity in the sub-sector in order to cope with the rapid expansion of the last decade and to anticipate what will be required to manage it in the years ahead.


The current higher education system is growing rapidly but is small by regional standards and there are genuine concerns about the quality, access, efficiency, and managerial effectiveness in HEIs. To assist in supporting these key areas, the World Bank, in agreement with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, has provided in the amount US$ 23 million (50% grant and 50% credit) to fund the 5 year Higher Education Quality and Capacity Improvement Project (HEQCIP) 2011-2015

Project Objective

The development objective of this project is to improve: a) the quality of teaching, management, and research in project-supported entities and b) pilot the targeting of disadvantaged students for enhanced access and retention.

Project Components

The MoEYS, in cooperation with the ACC and the other ministries responsible for HE, will provide guidance and funding support to HEIs in implementing the supporting components of the project as follows:

Component 1: Strengthening the Governance and Capacity of the Higher Education System will improve the overall development and management of the higher education sub-sector by focusing on staff development at the Department of Higher Education (DHE), Department of Scientific Research (DSR) and the ACC, thereby improving their capacity to offer practical guidance and support to higher education institutions. It is also designed to strengthen the capacity of individual HEIs.

Component 2: Provision of Competitive Development and Innovation Grants will (a)- strengthen the capacity of participating HEIs and provide the enabling conditions for improved quality in research, teaching and management; and (b) introduce an efficient and sustainable mechanism, which emphasizes innovation and accountability, in the DHE for the allocation of public funds for research to eligible public and private HEIs.

Component 3: Provision of Scholarships to Disadvantaged Students will increase the retention of poor students in HE through the provision of 1,050 “special-priority” scholarships, based on pro-poor targeting and educational criteria.

Component 4: Project Management and Monitoring and Evaluation will support management efforts to coordinate project activities and also assist MoEYS, DHE, ACC, and HEIs to systematically collect, collate, analyze, and report on the human and information resources needed to further develop the HE sub-sector.

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