Remarks by Ambassador William A. Heidt at the Launch of the American University of Phnom Penh and the University of Arizona’s Dual-Degree Program

American University of Phnom Penh
September 1, 2016

Dr. Chea Vandith, founder of the American University of Phnom Penh; Vice President of Academic Affairs, Mr. Nial Farrell; Professor Brent White, Vice Provost for International Education at the University of Arizona; AUPP students and teachers, members of the media, ladies and gentleman.

I’m delighted to be invited to speak this morning as American University of Phnom Penh launches a new partnership with the University of Arizona – one of the pre-eminent public universities in the United States.

Higher education is one of Cambodia’s fastest growing sectors. More than a quarter of a million Cambodians are now enrolled in university programs, giving them unprecedented opportunities to achieve personal and professional success.

At the same time, roughly 300,000 young Cambodians enter the job market each year. Just like in America, those with college degrees have the best chance to find satisfying, well-paid jobs that offer career advancement.

The very smart young people who decided to attend AUPP understand this fact as well as anyone, and I expect them to do very well in the job market when the first class graduates next year. I just finished meeting with a group of these fourth year students and I am really impressed with their confidence, curiosity about the world, and English language skills.

Increasing numbers of Cambodian students are looking to broaden their experience by pursuing an education overseas, and I’m proud to say the United States is one of the most popular destinations. More than 500 Cambodians are studying at U.S. universities and the number is rising every year.

A degree from a U.S. university is considered a mark of success, and students who study in America come back with the skills and experience to help them stand out in a highly competitive job market.

Of course, not everyone can travel halfway across the globe to attend university. That’s why I’m so excited about this new agreement between AUPP and the University of Arizona, which will allow more Cambodians to benefit from a top quality U.S. education without having to leave home.

Students in this program will receive degrees from both AUPP and the University of Arizona, which will set them apart from their peers and open up exciting opportunities to continue their studies if they so choose.

This program will also benefit the University of Arizona. Cambodia is a young, exciting, fast-paced, and Facebook-loving country in the heart of Southeast Asia that can contribute in many ways to the University of Arizona’s global mission.

We hope that this program will be accompanied by increased exchange of students, faculty, and administrators to Cambodia, and vice versa, opening up even more avenues of exploration, cooperation, and mutual understanding.

As the U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia I take great pride when U.S. institutions make strategic investments here, especially when those investments stand to develop the human and intellectual resources of Cambodia’s dynamic youth sector, represented by the young people who are with us today.

I would like to thank the leadership of AUPP and the University of Arizona for their long efforts to bring this exciting dual degree program to Cambodia. I wish you all good luck in this new initiative and look forward to many success stories to come.

Thank you very much.