SOAS University of London

Cambodian/Khmer back in the SOAS curriculum: now and for the future

Contact: Justin Watkins
Department: Department of South East Asia, SOAS


This project restored the teaching of the Khmer language to SOAS by training existing staff and developing a half-unit that is available both to SOAS degree students and SOAS Language Centre students.


This project aimed to restore Khmer to the SOAS curriculum using existing staff resources. Justin Watkins upgraded his Khmer language skills by attending an intensive Khmer language course. Following this, a new Basic Khmer course started running in SOAS in Term 1 of the 2007-2008 academic year, and ran in 2008-2009.  This ten-week course, of three hours teaching per week, was available both as a half-unit degree-programme course and as a Language Centre course. In addition, the project trained a Khmer native-speaker in order to share and expand the teaching of Khmer in future years. 

Aims and Objectives

The project aimed to make Khmer language instruction available once again in the UK by running a 10-week Basic Khmer course at SOAS. To achieve this, the project aimed to

  • develop in-house capacity to teach Khmer at SOAS by training existing staff
  • identify and train a native-speaker Khmer to share the teaching of Khmer in subsequent years and to grow SOAS’s Khmer teaching capacity in the future
  • recruit students from within SOAS and externally to the new course


Changes in SOAS staff priorities and reduced numbers of staff in the South East Asian Department led to the loss of Khmer from the curriculum some years ago. This is set against a strong departmental desire to restore Khmer to the curriculum and the strong departmental history of teaching Khmer at SOAS. This is even more important given a predicted demand for Khmer both within the SOAS student body and from outside, since the language is available nowhere else in the UK and at very few institutions elsewhere in Europe (INALCO in Paris and universities in Moscow and St Petersburg).

Products, Outputs & Outcomes

The project developed in-house capacity within SOAS to teach Khmer and initiated a new Basic Khmer course. This course runs over one term with three hours per week of teaching and is available both within in degree programmes and to external Language Centre students.

Subsequent developments

In 2009-10, a Term 2 course was added, so that a full year of Khmer was available, and this ran also in 2010-11.  From 2011-12, a one-unit Khmer course will be available as a floater course.