October 2008


Prospective Students Vie for Scholarships

Free education was the buzz around The University of Cambodia this month as more than 8,000 high school seniors flooded campus to vie for the 600 full-tuition scholarships being offered to new students entering the university this October. 


Word of the Samdech Techo Hun Sen’s Vision – 100 Scholarships and Samdech Hun Sen-Handa National Scholarships brought in students from Phnom Penh and outlying provinces September 1-10 to fill out registration forms. 


Sitting among his peers, who scribbled away on papers tucked inside blue folders, Teav Rachana said he hopes to attend to The University of Cambodia so he can study International Relations. 


“This school has good qualities,” he said. “It has good teachers and it is a good school.”


Other students were just hoping to be able to study the area of their choice without the high tuition fees. Hor Heng from Kampot Province wants to study Management, Kung Seng from Phnom Penh wants to study Education, and Pal Sereyvatana from Phnom Penh wants to study English. 


The registered students returned to Phnom Penh on September 13 and 21 to take the scholarship exams. In order to equip the capacity of students who would be taking the exam, the university held testing at two locations – UC and Preah Sisowath High School. More than 100 UC student volunteers and about 70 teachers from area schools assisted in moderating. 


The tests covered both general knowledge and English comprehension. 


UC's Facility Testing Capacity Limits


As The University of Cambodia continues to grow, finding the classroom space to equip the incoming students has been a concern. 


In the past, the university has addressed student body growth by creating a three-session system, where students can opt to take classes in the morning, in the afternoon or on weekends. Por Malis, UC's Office of Administration Director, said that the university hopes to continue to house classes within the university’s facilities, but if necessary they will rent out rooms in the National Institute of Education (NIE) building for evening sessions. 


Presently, the university’s administrative office estimates that at least 1,000 students will enroll in classes for the new term, though exact figures will not be determined until the start of the academic school year on October 6. That figure more than doubles last year’s enrollment of 447 students. 


Malis said the university hopes to support the increasing number of students with a well-equipped staff. 


“Quality should be our first priority,” she said. “We need to strengthen our faculty and the capacity and quality of our faculty and staff.” 


UC has already attracted international attention, having been recognized by Eduniversal as having one of the top 1,000 business colleges in the world. With this ranking of "Good Business School with Regional Influence," it wants to continue to expand its networks internationally, Malis said.   


Perfectly timed, with this growth is the move to the new campus at Sangkat Tuok Thla, planned for February 2010. The 11-story building, currently under construction, will accommodate between 10,000 and 20,000 students, as well as house a television and radio station. The university is also continuing the search for funding in order to construct dormitories to house students from the provinces wanting to attend UC.  Interested individuals, organizations or businesses wanting to support dormitory construction should contact the university's administrative department.


Mock Trial Team Places Second in National Competition

A room full of professionally dressed men and women, clad in their collared shirts and pressed black pants and skirts, watched as Mr. Som Sovan sat on trial for robbery, accused of stealing a woman’s purse while she was returning home from a trip to the ATM. 


The scene could have been straight out of a courtroom drama, but it wasn’t. It was the prompt for the Second Annual Cambodia Mock Trial Competition, hosted by The University of Cambodia. 

Teams of students from The University of Cambodia, Build Bright University, Royal University of Law and Economy, Cambodian Mekong University and Pannasastra University of Cambodia converged in the UC Conference Center September 3-5 to present their cases to a panel of judges, in competition to be the top legal team in Cambodia. 


Students were awarded points on a number of qualities including their overall performance, creation of questions, exhibited information, control of the witness and closing statements. 


“The students take it seriously. They work hard. They are passionate,” said Steven Austermiller, the event’s organizer. “Their work is better than most advocacy seen in the U.S. and Cambodian courts.”


The competition is part of USAID’s initiative to promote creative, non-traditional educational methods within Cambodia and teach advocacy to students, said Austermiller, the legal education adviser at East West Management Institute, which, along with USAID and the American Bar Association, helped fund the event.


UC prepared for 10 weeks and sent two teams of five students to take part in the competition. One team, consisting of students Heng Kanal, Van Chanphila, Mao Sovanratha, Lim Srey Sros and Po Vannary, made it to the final round and were deemed “second winner” because although they didn’t win their case, they gave a compelling performance. 


“The judge said there was only a slight difference between the teams and that it was hard to make a decision,” said Tep Punloeu, the team’s mentor. 


As part of the qualifying team, third year law student Chanphila  said he was chosen to compete because of his good grades and participation in class discussions. 


Chanphila, who played prosecutor in one of the preliminary rounds and defendant Som Sovan in a second preliminary round, saw a challenge in developing questions for the trial and working with the given facts. 


“You have to make a point and protect your side of the case,” he said. The competition helped him improve his advocacy skills, and he wants to take those skills into his future career as a lawyer.


“I can help my country do a lot,” he said. “And if my family has problems, I can help them.” 


Not having made up her mind quite yet as to whether to pursue a career in law, In Phirun, also a third-year law student, said the competition gave her an opportunity to put her coursework into action.


“I want to get good advice and experience,” she said. “Because I’m studying law, I must practice.” 


The students have greatly improved their skills from last year, said Punloeu, doing a better job with memorizing the facts and performing. He said he hopes to continue to help the students develop their skills by instituting a legal clinic at the university, which will provide resources to help the students in their preparation. 




Piper Campbell, Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy, made a glaring error when she mistakenly called The University of Cambodia by the name Cambodia University. Campbell was presenting the second place medals to the UC Mock Trial Team on September 5 when she announced the name of a school that doesn’t exist. 


The UC team hesitated to appear on stage, but swallowed their pride to accept an award they were rightly due. They would, however, like to advise Ms. Campbell in the future to please do her homework.


"We are The University of Cambodia," the students stated.


Novice Debate Team Argues Environment Issues


Three University of Cambodia debate team members made their debut television appearance alongside a veteran debater and fellow team member at the "Youth Environmental Debate" hosted by the Ministry of Environment at TVK on September 5. 


Kang Sokkim with her rookie teammates Ou Daney, Tim Vutha and Riel Rathsatya went head to head against Cambodian Mekong University in a debate over whether climate change should be included in governmental health policy. The team fought a tough battle, but did not make it past the preliminary round. 


“We planned very good, but lacked confidence in our speaking,” said Vutha, an English major, who said the team argued that the government should create a health policy around greenhouse gasses and the changing climate. 


Before the day of the debate, the students had about a month to research information to support their points. They gathered data from the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Health and the American Embassy, but according to Sokkim, an English major, their resources didn’t compare to other schools, like Mekong University, that have a more structured debate club with better Internet access and more materials. 


“Other schools have teachers that help to do research, but we have to do everything ourselves,” Sokkim explained about what she considered to be the team’s weakest point. She said the students had to sacrifice precious study time and their own money in order to find good resources to perform their research. 


The team also recognized that this initial debate posed some challenges that they will work on for future competitions. 


Although Rathsatya, an International Relations major, said he believed they organized their information well, being in front of a large audience made him jittery. 


“Because it was my first time, I felt a little bit nervous. That’s why I lost my points,” he said. “There were many people around me so I lost confidence.”


On the other hand, Daney, an English major, felt it was use of humor that might of hurt him. As Keng explained, they had to be strict about the points they were making, but also engage the audience. They can use humor, but not so much that they waste time. 


“They have no experience, so they didn’t know how to be on television and compete with other teams,” said Dean Gina Lopez, the team’s adviser. The more experienced members of the team were competing, at the Mock Trial competition held at UC on the same day. 


Even though the debate did not end as they hoped, the team agreed they learned a lot from the experience. Not only did they learn to work together in a group and get practice researching and organizing information, they also had the opportunity to expose their knowledge and communication skills to high level ministry members. 


“Now we have experience on how to win, know our weak points, and can improve,” Vutha said. 


The debate club will start meeting again during the new term, which starts in October. The date for selecting new officers is to be announced. Students interested in joining can contact Gina Lopez or Chris Smith.