Institutional legitimacy in international schools: An exploration of school leaders’ perceptions of institutional legitimacy in U.S. style international schools in Latin America.

  • Ruth Allen

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


The concept of institutional legitimacy is critical to both international schools and international school leaders. For a school to thrive, school leaders must recognise the factors that distinguish a ‘legitimate’ institution from one whose legitimacy might be questioned. This study uses Bunnell et al’s (2017b) analytical framework for theorising the institutionalisation of international schools to frame an analysis of school leaders’ perceptions of institutional legitimacy. The study aims to identify factors that might influence school leaders’ perceptions and to contribute to an understanding of institutional legitimacy within the context of U.S. style international schools in Latin America.
The study uses a qualitative research method to explore the attitudes, perceptions and beliefs of school leaders, and to uncover emerging themes and patterns. One of the most noteworthy findings is the extent to which the cognitive schemata and heuristics of the participants influence perceptions of legitimacy at all levels. The study concludes that while school leaders may seek to establish and manage legitimacy from a rational perspective, they must also be cognizant of the multifaceted perspectives and cognitive biases of stakeholders if those stakeholders are to be assimilated effectively into the organisation.
Date of Award16 Jun 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorMichael Fertig (Supervisor) & Meng Tian (Supervisor)

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