Transnational Education: Risking ‘recolonisation’

  • Paula Anne Sanderson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Business (DBA)


The research considers the governance and ethics of transnational education, developing a comprehensive and holistic view of the current challenges and opportunities in the sector. There is a focus on the ethical challenges of engagement across cultures, including those areas where the values of a largely liberal western system are challenged: human rights, fraud and corruption and academic freedoms in host countries. It concludes that there is a need for greater focus, structure and transparency in the governance and leadership of this growing and complex sector.

Postcolonialism and the increasingly broad definition of decoloniality in higher education provide insights into a new framing for international partnerships and campuses overseas. They highlight opportunities for critical self-reflection on the part of leaders and governors for the delivery of a contextualised cross border higher education sector and lead to a new definition of decoloniality in TNE as based the guiding principles of delivering the best outcomes for all students in environments that support and celebrate diversity and inclusion and belonging in a globalised sector.

The data highlights a risk of ‘recolonisation’ through education which reinforces western hegemony. The recolonisation of peoples, not through the physical violence of traditional colonisation but through: the subversion of histories, the erosion of indigenous language and so culture, the discrediting of indigenous knowledge and ultimately of identity. A system which mimics the West and in doing so replicates the inequities of colonisation.

Practice based and with the motivation to contribute to professional practice, the data informs the development of an environmental analysis framework through which a more comprehensive review of the impact of TNE can be considered. Drawing on evidence gathered in interviews with senior university and higher education sector leaders, the research points to a need to consider ethical engagement through two distinct lenses: those that are within the control of the institution and those that are situated in the national context, inherent in the environment in which TNE is delivered. Underpinning these two lenses is effective and transparent university governance. Here the research points to a need for universities look to diversify their Board membership to include members with experience of international trade, international development and diplomacy. Those Board members, alongside university leadership need to bring the skills and aptitude to transparently debate the motivations and intention behind engagement, their approach to values or ethical conflict and to ensure that staff are developed effectively to teach and support students in new cultural environments.
Date of Award24 May 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorJack Lee (Supervisor) & Dan Davies (Supervisor)


  • Transnational education
  • Governance
  • Ethics
  • Higher Education
  • Cross-border Education
  • Coloniality
  • Decolonisation
  • Post-colonial theory

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