Phnom Penh universities offering cut-rate tuition fees are driving students away from degree programs recognized abroad, jeopardizing the future of the more prestigious but expensive courses, university officials said.
In the past, students sought degrees bearing a foreign seal of approval, since Cambodia has no active accrediting body to judge the quality of its local institutions, said Stephen Paterson, adviser at the government’s National University of Management, formally the National Institute of Management.
But recently, numerous local programs have cropped up offering degrees at prices so attractive, students have “flooded to them in droves,” said Neil Stewart McLaren, chief executive officer of Regent School of Business.
Enrollment in Regent programs, which are recognized in England and Australia, have dipped so low, the school has considered dropping them in favor of cheaper local programs that do not require the high cost of obtaining foreign accreditation, McLaren said last week.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult to survive doing what we do,” he said.
NUM had no trouble filling seats for its local Masters of Business Administration program, which costs $1,500 for two years, Paterson said.
But, it struggled to generate enough interest to fill even the 25 slots in a $3,700 two-year internationally recognized MBA, Paterson said last week. That program will be taught in Cambodia by teachers brought in from De la Salle University, accredited in the Philippines, he said.
“Here, it seems like people are trying any way possible to get those upper degrees,” Paterson said. “So many people have MBAs that they feel like they have to put one on their resume.”
At Build Bright University, which offers mostly local programs, Vice Rector of Academics Dy Davuth defended the local programs, saying teachers at local schools are often also instructors of other international programs.
Business student Yim Nimol, 22, said she chose BBU because it is close to her house, is cheap and has nice facilities, though she said she would prefer to study at an international program.
“But I have to think of the cost,” she said at the university, while waiting for a class last week.
Meanwhile, Chet Sopalla, 22, who recently graduated from Institute of Foreign Language and NUM, said she has struggled to find a job. But she does not blame that on her local degrees.
“Most companies do not look for [international degrees],” she said. “They look for experience.”
(Additional reporting by Kim Chan)