Cooperation or competition: an exploration of values relating to internationalisation in higher education in Ireland

  • Don O'Neill

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


This study addresses the important and timely issue of values relating to the internationalisation of higher education (HE) in Ireland. Knight (2011) cautions that the values of cooperation which traditionally characterised internationalisation are being increasingly replaced by those of competition, and this study sets out to explore the ways in, and extent to which this may be applicable.The study takes place within a context of increased globalisation and commercialisation of HE, including in Ireland. Using a case study approach, an analysis of the websites of eight HEIs provided a ‘tip of the iceberg’ insight into the way internationalisation is represented online; while interviews with eighteen managers from universities, Institutes of Technology and national agencies with responsibility for internationalisation, revealed a ‘below the surface’ view of the values that are underpinning the process.Whilst the study found that all of the institutions’ websites provide examples of activities related to cooperation, partnership and exchange, the interview findings provide a more complex picture, particularly in relation to the commercialisation of internationalisation. The funding crisis for HE, especially in the wake of the 2008 financial crash has meant that internationalisation has become a source of revenue for many institutions highlighting an increasing focus on values related to competition and commercialisation.The data reveals the competing nature of values for international office staff who are under increasing pressure to generate income, while many of those interviewed also advocate closer cooperation among HEIs to promote Ireland as a destination for HE. Commercialisation is now however part of the landscape; the challenge is how to maintain a commitment to internationalisation based on values of cooperation.Referring to Carayannis & Campbell’s quintuple helix model (2010), the study recommends enhancing connectivity between government, industry, civil society and the natural environment, working to enhance ‘collective imagining’ between stakeholders to envision a new future for internationalisation built on ‘feasible utopias’, which can be realised through connecting with Ireland’s extensive global network and implementing a strategy of ‘knowledge diplomacy’.
Date of Award3 Apr 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorAndrea Abbas (Supervisor) & Tristan Bunnell (Supervisor)

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