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Cambodian higher education in transition: an institutional governance perspective

Chanphirun Sam (Department of International Business and Asian Studies, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia and Department of Organization Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy

ISSN: 1750-6204

Article publication date: 10 July 2017




The paper aims to ascertain the governance arrangements of higher education providers in Cambodia and to seek insights into institutional governance while its higher education sector is in a significant transition towards the market model.


The empirical research underpinning this paper applies a qualitative method, based on an interpretivist approach to inquiry. The study uses semi-structured interviews with 38 key research participants from relevant institutions. The data analysis follows a thematic coding approach.


The study has found that despite their divergent governance arrangements, three forms of higher education providers – public institution, public administrative institution and private institution – have become increasingly similar because of their convergent trend towards commercialization and politicization. These two critical issues are considered threats to institutional development in Cambodia.

Research limitations/implications

The interviews were conducted with the key actors at leadership and management levels. This leaves room for future research to investigate the institutional governance issue at faculty and student levels to develop a deeper understanding about the on-the-ground implementation. This paper is a useful information source for policymakers, institutional leaders and educational practitioners.


This paper addresses the under-researched issue of institutional governance in Cambodia and critically examines the assumption that devolution and privatization of higher education in Cambodia will help advance the sector for economic development. The paper contributes to the ongoing academic debate in the higher education domain while higher education institutions are struggling to sustain their place in the competitive marketplace.



The author is indebted to Prof Dr Heidi Dahles for her constructive comments on earlier versions of this paper. This research project is funded by Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Sam, C. (2017), "Cambodian higher education in transition: an institutional governance perspective", Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, Vol. 11 No. 03, pp. 414-434.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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