Australia ranks as a top choice for overseas study

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Cambodians are looking to Australia to pursue higher degrees. Heng Chivoan

Cambodian youth see Australia as a top destination for post-secondary study owing to its affordable and high quality education system, as well as support for students from developing countries.

Many Cambodian youth plan to pursue post-secondary education in Australia as they recognise the country’s world-class education system, cultural and geographical affinities, and more affordable living costs than other Western countries.

According to Deth Sok Udom, Provost and Rector of Zaman University in Cambodia, Australia ranks second only to Singapore as the most popular country for Cambodian youth planning to study abroad.

“Australia is home to an excellent education system and several world-renowned universities,” he explained. “Their quality of education is very high while tuition fees, accommodation and other expenses are more affordable than countries in Europe and the United States.”

Sok Udom added that Australian institutions provide extra support in English language to foreign students, and Cambodians can easily adjust to student life in Australia.

“The country is very convenient for Cambodian students as there are many Khmer communities over there, you can find Asian food everywhere, and even the weather is similar,” he said.

Moreover, unlike many Western countries, foreign students studying in Australia are provided opportunities to work and earn income while they complete their degrees.

Sophat Rasmei, a Master’s student currently enrolled in the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said nearly all of his peers have expressed interest in pursuing their degrees in Australia. However, while the demand is high, Australian university entrance requirements are formidable and very few Cambodians actually make it.

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Ken Sereyrotha. (left) Deth Sok Udom. (right)

“The conditions are very difficult,” he said. “For example, they require a high proficiency in English language with a 6.00 or higher TOEFL score and also require strong semester results or a top GPA score.”

Hul Ratana, a 20-year-old company employee who dreams of pursuing a graduate degree in Australia, said there is very little information available on scholarship opportunities for Cambodians seeking to study there, while the few scholarships that are offered tend to go to government officials rather than students.

“If I have a chance to pursue my education I’ll definitely go to Australia because it is close to our country and has a large Cambodian expat community,” she said.

Ken Sereyrotha, country director of conservation organisation WCS Cambodia and a Master’s graduate and PhD candidate at the University of Sydney, said he found Australia’s education system to be exceptionally well structured and designed to accommodate students from developing countries.

“Their curriculum is made to fit contemporary education and offer experience-exchange opportunities between students from developing countries as well,” he said.