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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Internationalizing Chinese higher education institutions Liu, Huacong


In this qualitative case study, I explored how internationalization is interpreted at a higher education institution in Shanghai, China. By using a theoretical framework containing Knight’s (2004) model, Marginson and Rhoades’ (2002) concept of ‘Glo-na-cal’, and Tierney’s (1998) academic culture, I attempted to answer three main research questions: How is internationalization interpreted at the national level, in terms of strategies, approaches, and rationales? How is internationalization interpreted at the institutional level, in terms of activities and rationales? At the core of the internationalization of higher education in China lies potential academic cultural clashes. How is this clash manifested, and how is this clash addressed at the institutional level? This study took place at School of Economics, Pacific University in China. Data collection took place from late March through mid-April 2011 using a strategic sample of participants including domestically trained scholars, returnee scholars, and senior administrators in the school. Data collection consisted of semi-structured interviews and document collection. Interviews were conducted in Mandarin and were digitally recorded and subsequently transcribed, coded, and analyzed thematically. The findings of this study suggest that internationalization of higher education has taken a narrow and pragmatic approach in China’s national policy level: internationalization is treated as a means to achieve national goals in technology innovation and creativity, and economic competitiveness through building world-class universities. However, there is a lack of well-articulated strategies of how to achieve the world-class university status. The absence of concrete strategies imposed from the national level does make room for suitable strategies and activities at the institutional level internationalization process. The case study institution has developed a set of strategies for internationalization, including overseas recruiting and strengthening academic environment, curriculum reform and strengthening teaching quality, emphasis on research and intensifying academic exchange. Nevertheless, true internationalization does not come easily. A lack of collegial academic culture is shown at the case study institution between the domestically trained faculty and returnee scholars. From a macro perspective, this study also indicates a frequent interaction among the local, national, and global levels during the process of internationalizing a Chinese higher education institution.

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