Phnom Penh Universities Unfazed by Lower Enrollment, Revenue

Amid the fallout of this year’s poor high school exam results, with just over 40 percent of students passing nationwide, universities say that despite overall lower admission rates and a drop in annual revenue, their programs will suffer little.

Ung Vanthoeun, vice-rector of Norton University in Phnom Penh, said that if the predicted number of students at his university is accurate, the institution could see a 28.5-percent decrease in revenue this academic year.

But despite the likely hit to his school’s bottom line, Mr. Vanthoeun said this figure was “not a major concern,” as Norton will adjust its programs and teaching hours to accommodate smaller class sizes, which could, in fact, result in students receiving a better education.

“For us, it’s not a concern. On the contrary, it would help us offer a higher quality of education because there would be less students who would get…more focused teaching,” he said.

At Panha Chiet University, the number of bachelor-degree enrollments has dropped significantly, from 500 last year to just 100 so far this year, with revenue down from $190,000 in 2013 to an estimated $38,000 this year, given current enrollment.

Chheav Bunhok, head of academic and research affairs at Panha Chiet, however, said these figures are preliminary and that he expects more applicants for the associate-degree program, which does not require a high school diploma, after the water festival, with a corresponding rise in revenue.

But with overall enrollment and revenue still likely to be lower than last year, the university will be forced to make cuts, Mr. Bunhok admitted.

“Due to lower revenue from school fees, we will have to pay tutors less and employ part-time teachers based on the lower number of students and teaching hours,” he said.

Mr. Bunhok said his university, which currently employs 350 part-time staff, will have to cut hours and salaries from $90 for 9 hours per week to $65 for between 6 and 7 hours.

Ros Salin, spokesman for the Ministry of Education, said that the increased competition for university applicants, and the revenue they bring to the institutions they attend, would hopefully serve to weed out the schools whose programs are not up to scratch.

“There are many universities that…offer low quality services yet still absorb many students,” he said, adding that the pressure to attract students will “make universities take action towards improving the management, services, infrastructure and resources.

“They must reconsider their entire curriculum to increase the capacity of students. And for those who still remain low quality, they can go bankrupt and we’ll have just good universities.”

sothear@cambodiadaily.com, styllis@cambodiadaily.com

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