Private Universities Say Gov’t Assessments Coming Too Soon

Following the education minister’s announcement last week that 10 of Cambodia’s top universities will be assessed by a revamped higher-education accreditation body next month, an association of private university owners said they were not prepared for a new system that would ultimately rank some universities above others.

“We are not worried about the pilot, we are worried about the time. June is too early and we don’t know what system [the ministry] will use,” Ek Monosen, spokesman for the Cambodian Higher Education Association (CHEA), said on the sidelines of a meeting with 17 of the association’s board members on Tuesday.

“Evaluations cannot be conducted until six months or one year,” he said.

The Accreditation Committee of Cambodia (ACC) has been completely overhauled since it was moved from the Council of Ministers to the Education Ministry in late 2013. Together with the World Bank and Unesco, the ministry has come up with 70 indicators to assess the country’s 105 universities, many of which it says are failing to produce qualified graduates.

The CHEA board members at Tuesday’s meeting drafted a letter to the Education Ministry stating their support for the ACC’s mandate to verify the quality of universities, but requesting it not be used as a system to rank universities.

“They want to use the accreditation to make a ranking system. If they do this, universities are not prepared yet,” Mr. Monosen said.

Education Ministry spokesman Ros Salin said on Wednesday that universities should not fear the ACC’s upcoming assessments, because the initial evaluations would only be used to fine-tune guidelines for inspections next year.

“So the work starting in June is not an assessment to do a ranking. I think they are afraid of that, those members of universities with low quality,” Mr. Salin said.

“We will not really do a ranking, like No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4,” he said. “The assessment will determine if the universities are meeting the standards or not, and see what they need to do to improve.”

Mr. Salin said the pilot evaluations would look at the oldest and largest universities in the country—six public and five private— including the National University of Management, the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Pannasastra University and Norton University.

“By next year, we will be ready at the ministry in terms of assessment, and universities will have time to get ready,” he said.

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