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Publication Detail
Going Global: Representation and Sense-Making in the British International Branch Campuses of the United Arab Emirates
  • Publication Type:
    Thesis/Dissertation
  • Authors:
    Rensimer L
  • Date awarded:
    22/12/2019
  • Awarding institution:
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Language:
    English
Abstract
‘Going global’ is a prominent phrase used to describe transnational developments in British higher education, premised on the internationalization and export of UK universities. This dissertation interrogates one influential component of that agenda, the international branch campus (IBC), asking how British higher education is translocated and reimagined in the commercial education market of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). As a departure from existing research on IBCs, it examines the phenomenon vertically, tracing the globalizing logics of contemporary exportation to their sites of consumption, and transversally, situating global demand for UK higher education within logics informed by Britain’s imperial past. Applying Appadurai’s (1986, 1996) concepts of the social imagination and regimes of value to transnational higher education, this study analyzes two interrelated processes: firstly, how universities represent themselves and the UK higher education brand through their offshore marketing practices, and secondly, how students and staff make sense of their IBC and imagine its role in fulfilling particular educational needs and desires. It applies an ensemble of interpretive techniques to the marketing images and texts of three large IBCs in the UAE to understand how particular qualities are signified and textured through a lens of Britishness. It then analyzes interviews with 52 undergraduates attending these IBCs, examining how expatriate and international students articulate value within the constrained parameters of ‘choice’ to maximize their future employment and mobility opportunities through an affordable, internationally valuable form of degree capital. The study finds that students’ IBC choices and the sense made of them are layered between proximal, practical calculations and deeply held desires to embody the qualities reflected in the British higher education brand, among them global recognition and belongingness. It also finds alignment between participants’ enunciations of ‘Britain’ and the ways in which IBC marketing selectively mobilizes symbols and discourses to frame their relationship to the national higher education brand, making them knowable and valuable to audiences without making explicit how abstract qualities are translocated to educational experiences in the UAE. These findings affirm the powerful role of the social imagination in shaping higher education choices and meaning-making in transnational contexts.
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