Unintended consequences of international education partnerships in UK research-intensive universities

  • Caroline Baylon

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Business (DBA)


This study explores organisationally driven international education partnerships between international pathway providers (IPPs) and Russell Group (RG) universities and, using a thematic analysis, identifies (1) what types of unintended consequences exist, (2) what causes them, (3) who they affect (4) and whether middle managers contribute to the shaping and/or reshaping of the original strategy and goals. Eleven Russell Group universities are included in this study.
Our research created a comprehensive taxonomy of the unintended consequences of developing and implementing partnerships with IPPs; as a result, we found that most areas of the university are affected by the development of the IPPs and that a holistic university approach may therefore be necessary when developing and implementing such partnerships. This study also found two broad factors responsible for generating unintended consequences in partnerships between research-intensive universities (RIUs) and IPPs, both of which are linked to decision-making and communication processes. We investigated our research questions by focusing on middle managers tasked with developing and implementing the partnerships studied and, in so doing, increased the understanding of the impact of their actions. One of the primary findings of the study was the possible misinterpretation of the intended strategy, including by middle managers in charge of sense-giving, leading to unmet ‘expectations’ despite the realisation of the original strategy. Lastly, the findings contribute to enabling higher education institutions and, in particular, research-intensive universities to be better prepared and mindful of the possible consequences of developing and implementing IPPs.
Date of Award1 Nov 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorHong Bui (Supervisor), Ludovic Highman (Supervisor) & Jurgen Enders (Supervisor)


  • partnerships in higher education, middle manager, strategy as practice, international student recruitment, internationalisation, unintended consequences, Russell Group, international pathway providers

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