The internationalisation of a Chinese university: a case study

Ying Shang

PhD thesis, conferred 2015

The internationalisation of higher education is a global phenomenon. In China, both the government and the universities have been moving rapidly towards internationalisation.

This thesis investigated the internationalisation of a university in northwestern China using a grounded theory approach. Research questions involved the perceptions of university faculty members on government policies and internationalisation initiatives as well as their understandings of internationalisation processes in the University. A Cyclical Change Model was devised upon Lewin’s (1947) Three Step Model of change. The combination of Cyclical Change Model and Knight’s (1994) six phase Cycle of Internationalisation was employed as the framework of this investigation. Participants from different schools and various positions in the University were selected for interview. National, provincial and university documents were collected and analysed for data triangulation.

Findings of the research indicate that the University is still at the beginning of internationalisation. The government as the ultimate funding source and policy-maker directed the course of internationalisation. Different levels of the University demonstrated different understandings of internationalisation. Organisational changes were identified as key approaches to internationalisation. Nevertheless, the University lacks certain essential features of internationalisation, staff members with international experience and international students. Further, due to the administrative procedures and organisational weaknesses the University has not produced a comprehensive strategic plan for internationalisation. The competition from other universities for qualified and experienced staff with international qualifications and experience has led to a number of highly qualified staff moving to more attractive settings. Findings suggest that university internationalisation would be more effective if staff perspectives and priorities were considered in the development of focused internationalisation strategies. The importance of an effective administrative communication channel to keep different levels of the University aligned on internationalisation policies and initiatives is considered essential.

Supervisor: Dr Kevin Laws