Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Spatializing globalization: The offshoring of French International Branch campuses between strategies and lived reality

Presentation by Alice Bobée, Research Associate at Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space (IRS)


This research will first question how French HEIs justify the need to offshore their campuses and whether their strategies follow market-making logics or state-based, national rationales. Those strategies are moreover interesting to analyze in the backdrop of France’s colonial history during which the educational export to foreign territories was a common practice. Opening a branch campus could serve a similar function as found in former colonial practices, namely to demonstrate cultural ideals and improve relative standing in the world (Lane, 2011). As such, the analysis will critically question which global power dynamics – among them neo-colonial knowledge structures – are reproduced through the offshoring of French HE.

Second, the research will explore how the offshoring strategies are actually implemented across campuses and, in particular, how they are (re)negotiated by actors on site. This will shed light on possible discrepancies between what the HEIs construct and sell as a functioning strategy and what actually occurs in the campuses. A low student enrollment rate can for instance be a major challenge IBCs face, leading to the shut-down of the campus. By not enrolling into the branch campuses, students show resistance to what is often promoted as world-class education (Siltaoja, Juusola, & Kivijärvi, 2018). Another challenge lies in students’ evaluation of the IBCs. A gap might exist between a marketing discourse selling the IBCs as globally prestigious and students’ actual experiences on site (Sin, Leung, & Waters, 2017). In particular, students of different nationalities might differently value the French IBC experience. Adopting a postcolonial lens, identification and resistance by the students to the promoted Western norms will thus be investigated (Siltaoja et al., 2018; Sin et al., 2017).

Overall, the PhD project addresses the following question, tackled in three publications: How do French HEIs justify the need to offshore campuses, which strategies do they follow and how are those strategies (re)negotiated in the campuses?