After coming back to Cambodia from the United States in the early 1990's, Dr. Kao Kim Hourn concluded that there was an absolute need for a reputable university which sought to open up the world at large to the next generation of bright young Cambodians, to compensate for the depredations suffered by their parents. This required the design and implementation of programs which broadened the students' perspectives (especially necessary given the limitations of the education offered by high schools – another consequence of our recent history); to this end, he selected the American, credit-based system as a model. Furthermore, he realized that, to broaden the students' outlook, it was necessary to teach these programs in the medium of English: not only would this make them more marketable in a globalizing world, but it also expanded the pool of potential teachers, through collaborative exchange agreements with universities elsewhere in Asia and beyond.

As a result of these discussions, together with the input of his own finance and the donation of capital and books, computers, and other materials by various contributors, The University of Cambodia was established. It was officially opened by Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen on 23 June 2003. Originally located in three leased buildings just south of the Independence Monument, today the University is firmly established on over 3 hectares of land in the middle of Phnom Penh, and comprises of a state of the art building that can accommodate over 10,000 students.  In additionally, on UC Phnom Penh campus contains the internationally recognized SEATV and Radio stations.