Luncheon Orientation for UC Faculty Members

By Sam Sophorn

March 16, 2013: The management of the University of Cambodia held a meeting for all faculty members teaching undergraduate and graduate courses, to familiarize them with UC policies on teaching and related issues, and recent
updates on these. The meeting was chaired by Dr. Angus D. Munro, Senior Vice-President for Research, Development and Policies.

At the start, Dr. Munro introduced Dr. Sokhom Sovathana as the new Vice-President for Academic Affairs: Dr. Munro has been promoted to Senior Vice-President for Research, Development and Policies. Thereafter, Dr. Sokhom described her background and experiences in academic and non-academic fields, as well as local and international working experiences. Dr. Sokhom emphasized her commitment to raise UC’s profi le to be one of the top universities in Cambodia and the region.

Afterwards, Dr. Munro gave a presentation covering an overview of UC‘s history, guiding principles, the facilities available, background information on Bachelor’s and Master’s programs, general expectations of UC students and faculty, UC’s policies on attendance and grading (including the issue of plagiarism and class assignments). Thus he emphasized and sought to clarify issues related to workflow, to ensure a smooth process between academic and operation sides: the need for proper signing-in and -out for each session, and to sign the pay-slip between the first and fourth day of each month.

There have been many recent changes which have been approved and implemented as part of continuing efforts at quality improvement and/or efforts to meet evolving requirements from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and/or the Accreditation Committee of Cambodia (ACC). Dr. Munro drew particular attention to the following, whilst noting that other changes are included in the recently-issued Undergraduate Handbook 2012 (the ‘Yellow Book’: updates of the Green and Blue Books will be issued shortly).

First is that, starting from Academic year 2012-2013, UC has introduced a Bachelor’s Comprehensive Exam to replace the existing Exit Exams. This comprises three papers - two related to the student’s major and one ‘general’ paper done by all students (see article on page 32).

Another major change is that, starting from term I of academic year 2013-2014, UC has had to implement fixed degree programmes, where students have no choice in the courses they take, to meet the requirements set by MoEYS. The fixed-degree programmes only apply to new students joining UC in October 2013 and thereafter.

Similarly, for Master’s students joining UC in October 2013 and thereafter, there is the need to do an extra common course in addition to the existing FDN501, FDN502 and FDN503: FDN504 (Ethical Leadership).

At the end of the presentation, teaching faculty members were encouraged to ask questions and provide comments. Regarding a question about syllabi and whether there was flexibility for lecturers to set their own textbooks, etc., Dr.
Munro responded that there needs to be standards across sessions: rather than having it completely fixed or totally flexible, there should be a balance to ensure that the basics are adequately covered but with some scope for differences regarding illustrative details, examples, etc., to reflect different lecturers’ personal approaches, their different experiences and so on. As an example of the need for some standardisation, he pointed out that, in the past, students in weekend session have scored lower than those in other sessions. It was pointed out that it is hard for a lecturer to check proper attendance for large class sizes; thus, is it possible to split the large classes? Dr. Munro responded that splitting classes was a decision by the Operation side or the President. UC was looking into the possibility of having someone help to check attendance.

Another faculty member pointed out that there are many holidays in some terms, so it is hard for instructors to make up classes: would it be possible to have another extra week to make up? Dr. Munro responded that UC is well aware of the problem, but that the schedule for three terms in a 52-week year is already so tight. Faculty should try to avoid postponing lectures for personal reasons and be flexible about when to hold make-up classes: a recent survey of students at UC showed that many of them either are also doing a degree at another university or have a job (and about a quarter are doing both), making it difficult to find a time convenient for all.

In response to a question regarding the purchase of software to detect plagiarism, and on a follow-up question on regarding why he thought that using Powerpoint presentations encourage plagiarism, since only main points are included, Dr. Munro said that UC had looked into such software, but it did have its limitations. He noted that it is often easy to detect if a student plagiarizes and then google for the sources (assuming that the material is copied from the internet). As to the use of Powerpoint, he agreed that only the major points should be included in slide presentations, but he has observed during peer evaluations that many students just copy and paste large amounts of text from a source and then just read from the slides.

Asked whether it would be possible to give feedback from student’s evaluations to faculty, Dr. Munro responded that UC had been planning to do so on a more formal basis. In the past, if there were serious complaints by students, Dr. Munro would follow up with the relevant Associate Dean; thus, no contact about the evaluations meant no major problems. Also, the Associate Deans received the evaluations of faculty in their respective Colleges and would give feedback as appropriate when they met their faculty between terms.

Finally, Dr. Munro informed the lecturers that UC had been working on finalizing plans for the recruitment of full-time faculty. Thus, if any teaching faculty member is interested in becoming full-time, they can approach their Associate Dean for further information.