The insertion of large management consultancy firms in the higher education sector of the GCC : the significance of power

  • Rachel Johnson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Business (DBA)


Since 2000, global professional service firms have expanded their operations in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The client base includes the higher education sector. This study shows how large firms expand, secure their market, and gain client base in the sector and identifies some outcomes of their operations. New connections between the higher education literature and the international business and organisation literatures provide an interdisciplinary research agenda and support deployment of an analytical framework for identification and examination of a multiple concept of power. Documentary and interview data are used within a critical realist methodological framework.
The study highlights how strategies and mechanisms used draw on different ‘forms’ of power and how power operates ‘spatially’ to create and claim markets, client networks and contracts. The ‘scale’ of power is dynamic and transformative; the dynamic reflects historical and contemporary geographical power relations and it draws global centres into local peripheries to expose nationally bounded systems to transnationally circulating agendas. Firms propose decontextualized and homogeneous views of the GCC context and its problems and apply to this a generic ‘panacea’ of diagnosis and solution. This panacea is informed by firm experiences in historical centres of higher education and cognitive assumptions associated with the broad concept of neoliberalism. The outcomes augur transformation of the purpose, organisation, and operation of higher education in the GCC. The research concludes with policy and practice recommendations for GCC clients and consultants relating to contract formation and execution, and business models.
Date of Award30 Oct 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorRajani Naidoo (Supervisor) & Mehdi Boussebaa (Supervisor)


  • power
  • management
  • consultancy
  • university
  • higher education
  • globalisation
  • postcolonial
  • neoliberalism
  • transnational
  • powercube

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