The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has decided to relocate the Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA) from its central Phnom Penh location to the outskirts of the city to allow for an expansion of the National Museum, officials said Thursday.
Thai Noraksathya, a spokesman for the ministry, said the National Museum, which neighbors the school, would be expanding onto the university’s grounds in Daun Penh district and that a new campus would be built on the Chroy Changvar peninsula.
“We want to expand the National Museum because it is a small space right now,” he said. “There is not enough room for people to spend time visiting.”
Mr. Noraksathya said the cost of building the new fine arts university, which will be constructed on land provided by City Hall, was yet to be determined.
“The cost of the building will come from the national budget and we don’t know the cost yet because we have to complete a study,” he said.
Culture Minister Phoeung Sakona said RUFA’s architecture department has already helped draft a preliminary design for the new school, but that ground would not be broken on the facility until late this year or early next year.
Ms. Sakona said the National Museum would use the university’s existing buildings for its expansion.
“It’s not in the government budget, but the government will find the money,” she said. “It may come from the Education Ministry or Culture Ministry, I cannot say.”
Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong said that the move was necessary to improve the facilities of the National Museum, one of the city’s main tourist attractions.
“We will expand the museum because currently there are many tourists visiting,” Mr. Socheatvong said.
At the university Thursday, students expressed disappointment over the pending relocation.
Archaeology student Muy Panha, 20, said she would prefer to continue studying in the landmark building in central Phnom Penh rather than in a new building across the river.
“Next year this school will be 100 years old,” she said. “If the ministry moves the university we will lose valuable culture.”
Ms. Panha said RUFA’s current location is not only easily accessible, but set in an area of the city that offers inspiration to students.
“The current university is close to the National Museum and the Royal Palace,” she said. “It is easy for us to come study and do research.”
Architecture student Pich Kacrona, 20, said that he worries students might not travel to the new location.
“If it moves, students won’t travel to study,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s is not a good idea and I don’t agree.”
When the government restructured RUFA in 2005, moving some departments to Russei Keo district’s Phnom Penh Thmei commune, enrollment in those programs plummeted.
Bong Sovath, RUFA’s director, said he did not expect the same to happen when the whole university is relocated in the coming months.
“Not all our current students live next to the school,” he said. “Some already travel.”
Mr. Sovath said that he’s been assured that the school’s current buildings would not be torn down, and that the new RUFA campus would offer students more space.
“They will keep the building as is; only the function will change,” he said. “We only have small, limited space here and if we get a larger building, I think it’s good news for us.”