Why attend a university in Cambodia? Because you can and it looks interesting on your resume. Roy, an American expat, who is working his way towards a degree in political science at the University of Cambodia, gives us the scoop on going to university in Phnom Penh in the post below.
Getting a degree in Cambodia
Attending university in Cambodia is an adventure and much more interesting than slogging through classes at a community college back home. Right now I’m finishing my second term at University of Cambodia. I love it here; the people are great. While there are a few students here from other ASEAN countries, I’m currently the only Westerner enrolled. Students and teachers all seem initially surprised, but quickly get used to having a barang in class. As a native English speaker, I get asked about pronunciations, definitions and grammar; it’s a bit like being a living dictionary. There are also opportunities where I try to explain the oddities of US politics.
The question I hear most often from my classmates is, “Why are you going to school in Cambodia and why did you decide to attend this school?” I explain that I love the country and the people. My choosing UC is based on instruction in English, the very helpful staff in registration and, if I’m going to travel halfway around the world to go to school, I want to be able to put something on my resume that makes it perfectly clear that I attended a university in Cambodia.
There are no “student visas” in Cambodia but as a student you can get a business/ordinary visa without a work permit. Phnom Penh has several universities that instruct in English, offering associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in a variety of topics. I’ll only discuss the two universities that I’ve had firsthand experience with.
University of Cambodia (UC)
The University of Cambodia is located 300 meters south of Russian Federation Boulevard on Northbridge Road. The prerequisite to enroll for undergraduate studies is an original or certified copy of your high school diploma and transcripts. If you have an associate’s degree it is possible to receive some transfer credits and it will allow you more flexibility in scheduling your classes. Later you may be required to take an English proficiency test and an entrance exam. View the admissions requirements for University of Cambodia.
The transfer of credits from a Western college or university without a degree is possible, but appears to depend on the dean or department head’s willingness to negotiate with the Ministry of Education. Transfer of credits between Cambodian schools is also problematic and there are limits that vary by school.
Foundation year is required for all students without a degree. It is a fixed track consisting of 12 classes over three terms. While it is not universally standardized, it is theoretically transferable between schools. After foundation year there is some flexibility in class scheduling, with a maximum of five classes per term.
There are four class schedules, mornings, afternoons, evenings and weekends. Tuition is about $1,300 per year for foreign students. Textbooks are generally less than $5 per class.
Rent near the university is low with many available housing options, however, most are not furnished. Tuk tuks cost about $5 from the school to Riverside or, if you’re not in a hurry, the bus is available for 1,500 riel.
Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia (PUC)
Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia is located 500 meters south of Independence Monument on Norodom Boulevard. It appears to be academically similar to University of Cambodia but with more Western instructors and staff. Tuition is slightly higher at $1,800 per year for foreign students.
From conversations that I’ve had with one of their deans, this would be my first choice if I was trying to transfer in credits from a foreign university.
Caveats of studying in Cambodia
At UC and PUC, all classes are taught in English. The origin and quality of the English varies by instructor but it is all passable or better. Classes tend to be noisier than in the West, so sitting near the front of the class is advisable. The administration of higher education in Cambodia is very different from what one might be accustomed to elsewhere. When doing anything out of the ordinary, everything seems to be just a bit more difficult than it needs to be. Fortunately the staff and students are helpful and friendly.
This post was written by Roy, an American expat who is working towards a degree in political science in Phnom Penh.