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Internationalization of Higher Education in China: A Case Study of International Branch Campuses Open Access


Other title
higher education in China
internationalization of higher education
transnational higher education
international branch campuses
cross-border higher education
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Xiao, Jing
Supervisor and department
Wimmer, Randolph (Educational Policy Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Newton, Paul (Educational Administration, the University of Saskatchewan)
Shultz, Lynette (Educational Policy Studies)
Grace, Andre (Educational Psychology)
Abdi, Ali (Educational Studies, the University of British Columbia)
Tarc, Paul (Faculty of Education, Western University)
Department of Educational Policy Studies
Adult, Community, and Higher Education
Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-06:Spring 2017
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Over the past few decades, internationalization of higher education has become a key focus for universities in measuring excellence and innovation. As such, one of the most visible dimensions of internationalization is expanding partnerships with universities around the world. As the outcome of an increasingly globalized economy, the internationalization of higher education has been manifested at various levels including the emergence of international for-profit providers, and the changing position of emerging economies like China. This study investigated how China chose to embrace the internationalization of higher education by developing international branch campuses as partnerships with foreign institutions. The purpose of this study was to explore the rationales and approaches in China’s efforts to strategically internationalize its higher education sector through collaboration, with a specific focus on the international branch campuses in China. International branch campuses reveal the intersection of a state’s social and economic priorities, with higher education institutions as the focal point. In this study I used a qualitative research methodology by applying a case study approach that focuses on four international branch campuses: University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC), Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU), New York University Shanghai (NYU Shanghai, and Duke Kunshan University (DKU). Participants included senior university administrators, government officials, faculty members, and researchers in the topic area. The analysis of the findings involved developing an initial conceptual framework drawing on key political and economic ideas of neoliberal globalization, Socialist Market Economy, and the Post-Confucian Model of higher education. Six key themes emerged from the data analysis: understanding of academic freedom, issue of educational sovereignty, concept of nation building, demand for quality assurance, discussion on knowledge exchange, and interpretation of internationalization. Based on these key findings, I revised the conceptual framework to better account for how internationalization, as manifested in Chinese higher education, is the driver to reconcile some of the tensions between best practices found in foreign higher education and Chinese higher education. International branch campuses in China are an emerging model of hybridization and the manifestation of China’s effort to reconcile such tensions. I also developed a policy framework for international collaboration, which is comprised of three components that represent a reciprocal approach to internationalization. This study is a timely investigation of international higher education policies and practices in China. The findings not only reveal China’s changing stance on the world higher education stage, but also have significant theoretical and policy implications for foreign institutions considering similar joint education ventures.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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