An Exclusive Interview with the British Ambassador, HE Tina Redshaw

By I’mACE Team

Q: How many Cambodian cities and provinces have you visited since you were posted to Cambodia in 2018?

A: I’ve probably visited about half of them in my first year: these include Kep, Kampot, Siem Reap, Oddar Meanchey, Preah Vihear, Ratanakiri, Kandal and Koh Kong. I love getting out to visit the provinces, to meet Cambodians and understand the culture better and to see for myself all that this beautiful country has to offer.

Q: You’re involved in initiatives around STEM subjects and women’s empowerment. Could you tell us about the work in which the British Embassy is involved and why this work is so important?

A: We’ve established a solid reputation for collaborating with organisations that work with young people to foster their interest in encouraging them to study science. We’ve worked with organisations such as STEM Cambodia and STEM Sisters, and we’ve had a dominant presence at the Science and Engineering Festival. At the festival, I witnessed for myself how our project partners are fostering young people’s excitement about science. STEM Sisters, for example, uses the most basic of science equipment (in fact, everyday objects), but nonetheless generated so much enthusiasm about STEM subjects among young people. Given the opportunity to get involved and do science experiments themselves they love it.


I’m the first female British Ambassador to Cambodia. I’m really keen to be seen as a role model for young women and girls, to encourage their aspirations and help show them that anything is possible. I also strongly believe that any society can only improve significantly if there is equal participation from women. Woman want (and deserve) the opportunity to make their valid contribution to society and I believe it is something we should all do to support all women to maximise our full potential. We support organisations including SHE Investments, which encourages young women entrepreneurs to grow their business, and WeDu, which seeks to boost young women’s self-confidence. I communicate regularly with Cambodia’s Minister of Women’s Affairs to remain aware of what’s happening at the government level. Recently, I’ve been talking to the Minister about how to get more women into the civil service and how to get them promoted once they’re there. Very few women are at the top, which has to change. Cambodia needs women role models across all areas of society, to achieve greater participation in politics and economic development. I also support the Women of the Future Awards Southeast Asia. This year, there were 15 nominations, with nine women advancing to the Finals. Kuthear Mov of Dorsu was the winner of the Social Entrepreneur category.  Nominations are now open for the Awards 2020, and we hope there will be as many or more great nominees from Cambodia.

Q: Education is a key pillar of economic development. Could you tell us about some of the education initiatives in which the embassy is involved?

A: We’ve already talked about STEM; another key strand is Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). We approach TVET by looking at ways in which we can encourage young people to see vocational training as valid and useful, and to realise that although they might not have achieved university entry, they mustn’t overlook the importance of their ongoing education. TVET is exactly what a lot of young people need, whether in hospitality, science, engineering and many other fields. Cambodia’s Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training is very active in this area. We know that there are skills gaps. To fill these gaps, it’s essential that young people become more aware that TVET is available and worthy. It’s also about reaching families. There’s a strong sense that university is the only route to a career. TVET enables young people to complete their training in one or two years, after which they can enter the workforce and earn money for their family. 

Q: For many years, the Chevening Scholarship Program has been sending Cambodian students to the UK to receive Master’s degrees. What kind of changes have you seen in Chevening scholars once they return to Cambodia?

A: Our biggest role in education here, as in many countries, is our Chevening Scholarship Program. The program awards scholarships to young people who already have bachelor’s degrees and work experience. Interestingly, in recent years our scholarship awardees have been undertaking a much broader range of degree courses, including public health, architecture and engineering. That’s really exciting: it means that young people are starting to realise that a wide variety of careers is out there. Over 160 Cambodian students have graduated from our Chevening Scholarship Program. When our graduates return from the UK, they work closely with us to promote the UK. They’re excellent ambassadors not only for our education system, but also for the UK’s cultural life. To learn more about Chevening Scholarships, go to:

Q: You also mentioned the Chevening Internship Program, which awards young Cambodians an internship with Chevening alumni. Could you tell us more about this program?

A: The Chevening Internship Program was recently established in Cambodia. Chevening alumni take internship awardees into their workplace for three months to help them obtain work experience. We’re especially keen to reach out to young people in the provinces who don’t necessarily have this kind of opportunity. When we conduct interviews for our Chevening Scholarships, we see clearly that volunteering and internship opportunities are readily available in Phnom Penh. In contrast, students from the provinces just don’t have access to equivalent opportunities. Of the interns that have been through the program, half have subsequently been offered jobs in the workplaces in which they completed their internship.


Q: The UK is a popular study abroad destination for many Cambodian students. What advice do you have for Cambodian students who wish to further their education in the UK?

A: It’s important that they really do their homework – that is, do a lot of research – and that they don’t simply choose a course at one of the most famous universities. It’s also important that they think about the subjects that most interest them and seek out universities that specialise in those subjects. It’s not the case that all UK universities specialise in engineering, for example. It’s essential that those interested in furthering their education in the UK use online resources to discover which university is the best fit for them. In the applications we receive for Chevening Scholarships, we see clearly that the top applicants have really done their homework when it comes to choosing universities and degree courses.

They also have to be prepared to experience some culture shock. Living and studying in the UK are very different from living and studying in Cambodia. If and when they gain entry to a UK university, they should immerse themselves in university life and in different and exciting cultural experiences. The other thing is to talk to people who have already experienced living and studying in the UK. They’ll be doing much more self-directed learning, so they have to be prepared to study on their own. They’ll have lectures and tutorials, but they’ll also do a lot of independent study.

Q: This year, IDP Education, in partnership with a number of institutions in the UK and Cambodia, is hosting the inaugural CamDEBATE Championship – a premiere platform for professional development in public speaking and debate, cultivating a healthy culture of dialogue and the sharing of different perspectives among young people in Cambodia. Ten winners will be awarded a two-week study tour to the UK. Are public speaking and debate popular in the UK? What advice do you have for CamDEBATE contestants?

I wouldn’t say that public speaking and debate are popular at all schools or universities, but certainly a number of schools are actively involved in them, particularly at higher levels. I was actually part of a public speaking team when I was at secondary school, in Year 10 or 11. It was a great experience; I really enjoyed it. I can remember feeling nervous before competitions, but I was always well prepared, which made me feel more comfortable.

I can also remember that as a team we had to choose a topic and develop an idea. The best advice I received was to choose topics and develop ideas in areas that I was passionate about. You can argue against something you actually like, but make it something that matters to you, so that you can be authentic.

Q: Do you have any advice for CamDEBATE winners as to places they shouldn’t miss and activities they should experience while spending two weeks in the UK?

A: Listen and learn all the time, and try to sample a piece of everything. They should definitely get out into nature. There are beautiful national parks, as well as a lot of historical sites. Overseas visitors always love the UK’s castles. In addition, they shouldn’t be shy about actually engaging with British people. The UK is renowned for its fish and chips and traditional afternoon tea with scones and clotted cream. Both are part of our culture!

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: It’s clear to me that the standard of English spoken in Cambodia is very high, certainly compared to neighboring countries. I’m delighted that so many Cambodian people learn English to such high levels. They understand the importance of learning foreign languages, especially English, which is the official language of ASEAN. I’d also like to encourage Cambodian students to read as often and as widely as possible.

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