Correspondence or discrepancy?:A multi-method examination of internationalisation agendas in Malaysian private higher education

Wong, Shin Pyng (2018) Correspondence or discrepancy?:A multi-method examination of internationalisation agendas in Malaysian private higher education. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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Internationalisation has become a central agenda in higher education sectors around the world. Malaysia, where this research is conducted, represents a growing world education hub, where there are more than 40 private universities which has led to a growing international student population. As non-government sponsored institutions, Malaysian private universities have a higher degree of autonomy in expanding their internationalisation agendas; they are able to establish more partnerships, recruit international talents, and grow international student markets without imposed limitations. Thus, the aim of this study is to examine the extent to which internationalisation legislation, policy and practice result in a relation of the correspondence or discrepancy in Malaysian private universities. It is also to explore the multiple factors that interact and influence the process of internationalising private tertiary institutions in Malaysia. The findings of this research can assist the stakeholders of private higher education to make informed decisions about how to effectively include an international dimension into the processes of policy making and practice. To elucidate this relationship the study employs a mixed methods approach combining textual analyses and qualitative interviews. First, 6 legislative texts which relate directly to private higher education internationalisation were analysed, followed by the interviews with 20 Senior Management Leaders (SMLs) from 4 Malaysian private universities. It is through the triangulation of data that an in-depth understanding of the phenomenon of internationalisation in Malaysian private higher education emerges. Theoretically, the thesis employs a synthesis of Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of practice, and Engeström’s activity theory. It is argued here that SMLs interactions with legislation, policy and practice, reveal the centrality of strong habitus at the organisational level of the university. This manifests in individualised and institutionally-specific internationalisation policies, which then must interact and align with government legislation. The textual findings indicate that legislation has granted the private university with a higher degree of autonomy in developing its power hierarchy and habitus geared towards internationalisation. The increasing self-governance of the private higher education field has allowed negotiations between the SMLs and the governmental authority in aligning the university internationalisation policy and practice with legislation. This advocates Engeström’s notion of knotworking in developing the SMLs’ and the governmental authority’s stable and institutionalised activity systems, and maintaining the power balance between both for implementing individualised internationalisation policies. The fierce local and international competitions between private universities have increased their motivations to individualise their internationalisation policies, for sustaining growth into the future. The discrepancy between legislation, internationalisation policy and practice is due to the strict legislative control on specific internationalisation areas such as accreditation and student autonomy, which impedes knotworking between the activity systems of the SMLs and the governmental authority. It results in the SMLs’ disempowerment, procrastination, negligence and eventually abandonment of realising an important internationalisation strategy. Both interacting activity systems have to address tension and disagreements, derived from their individual agenda of internationalisation, in order to establish the common internationalisation objective.

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Thesis (PhD)
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18 Dec 2018 11:03
Last Modified:
19 Sep 2023 03:07