Minister of Education, Youth and Sport Hang Chuon Naron urged public and private higher education institutions (HEIs) to continue investment in infrastructure, including libraries, experimentation equipment and research facilities, noting that the number of the Kingdom’s HEIs remains low compared to neighbouring countries.

The call came at the fourth national research forum on “Promotion of research and innovation for socio-economic development”, held in Phnom Penh on October 20. The forum brought the rectors of universities and researchers together.

It was designed to serve as a network that would enable policy makers, researchers, students, entrepreneurs and members of the public to discuss ideas and share knowledge in order to promote research and innovation in Cambodia.

Presiding over the forum, Chuon Naron said educational research plays an important role at all levels, from kindergarten level to higher education.

“Countries that spend a lot on research and development enhance the quality of their education and orient their economies faster,” he added.

He said the ministry is now in talks with the World Bank to develop projects that would enhance the quality and capacity of HEIs. These new projects would be sound investment in educational structure. He also urged the public and private sectors to invest in this sector.

“In terms of the development of infrastructure, when compared to neighbouring countries, it remains limited. Libraries, experimentation equipment and labs all require improvement,” he said.

He said research in HEIs must be linked to economic development, so Cambodia’s developmental goals need to be examined.

“For example, the agricultural sector lacks companies that are linked to higher education institutions. We believe this forum is a starting point to think about what the direction of Cambodia’s economic development should be, and how we can orient research and training,” he added.

He commended the ministry’s Department of Scientific Research for holding the forum, which linked this work with Cambodia’s socio-economic development. The forum focused on the direction of research and research priorities in HEIs, enabling each institution to set its own priorities and specialties.

Seng Bun Thoeun, vice-rector of the National University of Management (NUM), said the ministry had encouraged NUM to establish three more faculties and put them into operation for years.

“In response to the minister’s suggestion, students can see books in the library in person and online. We have extensive physical infrastructure,” he said.

Mak Ngoy, director-general for higher education at the ministry, said the forum was designed to provide opportunities for Cambodian researchers to disseminate their findings and target future projects.

He said research would be crucial for the socio-economic development and would play an important role in helping the country achieve its vision of becoming a high-middle-income country by 2030 and a high-income country by 2050.

“To promote research in higher education, we need to invest more in human resources, physical infrastructure and research packages,” he said.

The ministry has provided research funding to both public and private HEIs through two projects – one which ran from 2011 to 2017, and one which is currently underway. The latest project began in 2018 and will be completed in 2024.