Under the DOCKSIDE (DOctoral program in Khmer universities Strengthening the International Development of Environmental and maritime research) project, a delegation of Cambodian researchers representing several Cambodian universities visited us here at the MERE research group. Delegates representing the Royal University of Agriculture, the University of Battambang, the National University of Management and the Royal University of Law and Economics attended the visit, which lasted from 25-29 September, 2017. DOCKSIDE is an EU funded (Erasmus+) project via which the MERE research group is supporting Cambodian universities’ efforts to strengthen their higher educational programs and research capacities, particularly at the PhD level.

This the is first ever visit by any Cambodian research team to the department. During this official visit, the participants attended a series of meetings with MERE researchers, the Head of the SEBE (Department of Sociology, Environmental and Business Economics), the Vice Dean of Social Sciences and the Administrative staff. The relatively long meetings with the administrative staff really demonstrated the importance of well functioning support in academia.

The Cambodian delegates described their working conditions and challenges, which are substantial and include the newness of higher education in the country (most universities are from the 1980s or later), the lack of funding for students, administrative support, and research time, and the challenges in creating programs that students will choose amongst a highly competitive set of offerings around the country.

A guided tour to the Esbjerg Port was organized as a way to gather practical experience on safety and environmental management strategies in an important, busy, and transitioning Danish port. The Cambodian and MERE colleagues also visited the Wadden Sea (the UNESCO World Heritage Site) to gather knowledge on nature conservation and sustainable management of the Wadden Sea ecosystem. These excursions aim to build foundations for collaborative interest in research amongst current researchers and future students.

MERE and DOCKSIDE Researchers learning about the Port of Esbjerg

The most important outcome of this visit is the Cambodian and MERE group colleagues have agreed to enhance their communication and cooperation in research and higher education. In response to this, MERE group researchers are now set to visit to Cambodia in 2018-19. They will organize couple of training sessions in the area of natural resource economics and management and they also hope to participate in summer schools organized by the Cambodian Universities.