There is no dean at the Royal University of Fine Arts’ Faculty of Architecture, and students have been waiting anxiously since the beginning of the month for one to arrive so that teachers can be sent to the school and classes can begin.
“So far, just a few volunteer teachers have come to class,” said Saom Ang, a fifth-year student.
Tasks like arranging classrooms and teachers have yet to be accomplished since the previous dean, Sisowath Kolchat, stepped down amid student protests in May. The students, about 30 in number, alleged that he did not have an architecture certificate and demanded large informal fees.
Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts Secretary of State Sisowath Panara, the second cousin of Sisowath Kolchhat, denied the former dean was corrupt or unqualified.
He said the students were merely upset that they had not passed exams. Sisowath Kolchhat earned a degree from a university in Paris and studied under renowned Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann, Sisowath Panara said.
Sisowath Kolchhat retired in May because he had reached the mandatory retirement age of 55, according to Sisowath Panara.
Vang Morin, one of the school’s three vice-deans, denied there was ever a conflict between students and the former dean.
The school normally has 30 teachers, 19 of whom have their salaries paid by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Cultural program specialist Teruo Jinnai said Unesco would not send teachers until a teaching plan is written by whoever becomes dean.
Sisowath Panara said the Ministry of Culture will assign one vice-dean to be acting dean, and that a new dean would be named within a month. But he also said it could be difficult to find someone who has been trained in France or the US and can promote international standards.
Students like Ek Rithychan are worried it will be several months before a full schedule of classes begins. “We are already a half-month late,” he said.