How one becomes a professor in Cambodia

WordItOut-word-cloud-2612893In this post, I want to discuss how a teaching staff member gets promoted to a professor rank in Cambodia. The purpose of my discussion seeks to answer some underlying questions about the process and requirements involving professorship appointment. I hope at the same time that it helps to clear up a misunderstanding that a professor is someone who teaches regardless of educational levels and institutions. Where appropriate, I will also show how Cambodia’s practice aligns with the regional and international norm.

In 2013, Royal Government of Cambodia promulgated the essential regulation-Royal Decree No. 0113/092 on the Academic Promotion in higher education institutions. Any Cambodian teaching full time mainly at public higher education institutions could be appointed to be a professor in three designations: assistant professor, associate professor, and professor.

In many countries around the world, academic promotion is institution-based which means that each institution exercises its right to promote teaching staff members internally according to its internal promotion process and emphasis. The reason being the academic staff of public universities, especially those in the Western world are not civil servants; employment contracts exist between individual academic staff members and their institutions. In Cambodia, professorship appointment is the sole responsibility of a national body (National Committee for Academic Promotion). To borrow Sen’s words, Cambodian academic promotion is “a state affair” and “an institutionalised practice of centralisation” (2017, p. 8). Professors at all levels are appointed by the King at the request of the National Committee for Academic Promotion.

In Cambodia, a teacher (from secondary level) is most commonly referred to as “សាស្រ្តាចារ្យ” “professor.” But becoming a professor is different from becoming a teacher. How then can a Cambodian be a professor? What does one have to do to meet requirements according to the Royal Decree?

What exactly one has to do to get promoted is not spelled out clearly in the Royal Decree, but to begin, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree is not enough. To become an entry assistant and an associate professor, one needs at least a Master’s degree in a chosen field. A full professor is required to hold a doctorate to be qualified for appointment. In addition to the qualification, an appointee must have a good character; he/she must not have violated professional code of conduct or have been charged with a crime.

Cambodia’s professorship promotion depends significantly upon evaluations in the areas of publication, teaching, research, and, student supervisory role. For an assistant professorship appointment, candidates are required to publish articles in local and international academic journals; supervise students’ thesis; teach one subject/conduct a research project.

After serving as an assistant professor for at least four years, an assistant professor can then be appointed to the associate professorship post (RGC, 2013). The promotion at this stage, according to Un, Hem, & Seng (2016), relies on the professional experience and performance including speaking at international conferences, conducting research in the field of specialisation and publishing research findings in local and international academic journals, being involved in preparing course materials, and teaching one subject.

To advance to the full professorship from associateship, the timeline for application for promotion is five years. As I mentioned above, a full professor needs a doctoral degree to be qualified. Similar to the requirements for the other two ranks, appointees for professorship promotion are evaluated based on their contributions to publication, research, and teaching. Each appointee must have been a speaker or shown posters at international conferences, have published in local and global academic journal, and have involved in preparing course-books in his/her speciality.


RGC. (2013). Royal Decree on Professorial Ranking. Phnom Penh: RGC.

Un, L., Hem, B., & Seng, S. (2017) “Academic promotion of higher education teaching personnel in Cambodia”, in Wang, Libing and Teter, Wesley (Eds.), Recalibrating Careers in Academia: Professional Advancement Policies and Practices in Asia-Pacific, UNESCO Paris & Bangkok.

Sen, V. (2017). Hybrid governmentality: higher education policymaking in post-conflict Cambodia, Studies in Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2017.1379985

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