Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh traces its origins back to the École des Arts Cambodgiens, established in Phnom Penh in 1918 under the directorship of George Groslier and originally incorporating faculties of traditional drawing, sculptural modelling, bronzecasting, silversmithing, furniture making and weaving. In 1965 this institution was merged with the National Theatre School to form the Royal University of Fine Arts.
Thereafter its programmes of study also embraced archaeology, architecture and urban planning and design, plus a range of new performing arts subjects including traditional Khmer and western music, Khmer classical dance, folkloric dance and theatre and modern drama. Prior to 1975 all of the University’s teaching took place on the original campus in the centre of the city. From 1975 to 1980 all teaching ceased and staff were evacuated to the countryside by the Khmer Rouge; many academics lost their lives in the devastation of this period.
The institution re-opened in 1980 as the School of Fine Arts. In the same year a second campus was established at the site of an old army barracks in the north of Phnom Penh to house the teaching of performing arts subjects. The teaching of circus arts was added to the curriculum in 1989. University status was restored in 1989, and the suffix ‘Royal’ was once more added in 1993 following the restoration of the monarchy.
The Royal University currently has five faculties – Archaeology, Architecture and Urbanism and Plastic Arts may be found at the original central campus behind the National Museum in Street 184, central Phnom Penh, whilst Choreographic Arts and Music are now based at the second campus in Russey Keo District, several kilometres from the city. The University’s Secondary School of Fine Arts is also based here. Current student enrolment stands at just over 1,600, with 357 teaching staff.
The Royal University of Fine Arts is a partner in the Mekong Art and Culture Project, a two-year collaborative project spanning six activities, four countries and eight art institutes across the Greater Mekong Subregion.