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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

International Branch Campuses in China: Quest for Legitimacy
by Zhang, Li, Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2016, 256; 10107769
Abstract (Summary)

A new organization often encounters the “liability of newness” that increases its chance of failing as a start-up enterprise (Freeman et al, 1983). New organizations located in a foreign country also face the “liability of foreignness” (Zaheer & Mosakowski, 1997). By gaining legitimacy, organizations can obtain the resources they need to become sustainable. The liabilities of newness and foreignness aptly describe the international branch campuses that have been set up in China.

Scott’s (1995) institutional legitimacy pillars and Suchman’s (1995) legitimacy theory are combined to form a new conceptual legitimacy framework to understand legitimacy issues in China. This qualitative study selects seven cases to answer this research question: What strategies do the international branch campuses use to gain social support from different constituencies? The institutions studied are: The University of Nottingham Ningbo China, Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University, New York University Shanghai, United International College Shenzhen, Dongbei University of Economy and Finance Surrey International Institute, Southeast University-Monash University Joint Graduate School (Suzhou), and The Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies.

Fifty-two interviews were conducted with senior institutional leaders, faculty, staff, students, parents, scholars, and employers. The research found that these international institutions did face the twin liabilities of newness and foreignness. However, being new and foreign could actually give these institutions legitimacy as well. The international institutions used all four strategies identified in the literature to gain the four pillars of legitimacy. An important caveat of the study is that the environment is significant in institutions gaining legitimacy, but the primary factor in acquiring legitimacy is the quality of their product.

This study has several limitations, including one missing case, fewer foreign interviewees, the uneven amount of information available at each institution, translation difficulties between two very different languages and cultures, and data provided by the institutions might be self-serving. The results indicate four avenues for further research. They are legitimacy thresholds; legitimacy from the perspective of the home institutions; the failed international branch campuses; education quality at these IBCs; and the evolving political dynamics in China.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kinser, Kevin
Commitee: Leventhal, Mitch, Levy, Daniel
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: Educational Administration and Policy Studies
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 77/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational leadership, School administration, Higher education
Keywords: China, International brancan campuses, Legitimacy, Strategies to gain legitimacy
Publication Number: 10107769
ISBN: 978-1-339-71156-0
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