UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Envisioning a higher education system for the 21st century : Cambodia Phan, Sopheap


Higher education is essential for Cambodia’s human, social, cultural, and economic development. Yet, it is ineffective and inefficient. Improving higher education, especially making it more responsive to the needs for human resources, is one of the gravest and most urgent reforms Cambodia needs to undertake. This study aimed to explore options to help Cambodia improve in this area. To achieve this objective, the study incorporated the qualitative research methods of document review and stakeholder interviews as a means of collecting and analysing data. A document review of statistics, technical reports, policy papers, and academic literature sources obtained from both local and international institutions was conducted throughout the research project. During July and August 2014, semi-structured interviews with 18 Cambodian participants were conducted to obtain their perspectives about Cambodian higher education development and challenges. These participants were purposively selected from various backgrounds and included students, parents, faculty, university administrators, higher education officers/expert, employers, and non-governmental staff member. In keeping with the research purpose, three questions were deployed to guide the study: (a) What are the challenges facing higher education in Cambodia? (b) What lessons can Cambodia learn from policy and practice reforms in developing countries and how can these lessons inform higher education policy development in Cambodia? and (c) What do key stakeholders see as issues and directions for Cambodian higher education? Overall, the findings indicated that, despite rapid development and growth after the introduction of private higher education in the mid-1990s, Cambodia’s higher education subsector still faces many overarching challenges that need to be addressed to ensure greater effectiveness and efficiencies. This study points out those problems. Also, it suggests some key changes that higher education institutions and the Cambodian government need to make to correct the mismatch between higher education and labour market demand. The directions proposed in this study are expected to provide policymakers in Cambodia (and hopefully elsewhere) with a foundation for their future higher education policy discussions and debates.

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