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Globalization of higher education and the changing academic identity: a case study in China

posted on 22.02.2017, 03:58 by Wang, Xuhong
Globalization has become a powerful force shaping our political, economic, and social lives during the past decades. In order to promote the role of universities in economic development and international competition, national governments worldwide started to reform higher education systems. During this global transition, academics are encouraged to build collaborations with industry and international researchers. The development of new policies ensures the states to achieve this aim. The changing governance and its related education policies have far reaching influences on academic work and academic identities. There is a substantial literature documenting the impacts of this globalizing process on academics’ workplace in Western countries. However, limited studies have been conducted to investigate the effects of these reforms in Chinese context. This thesis draws on the socio-cultural theory to analyse the experiences of Chinese academics doing research and how their academic work and professional identities are shaped during these global transformations. Guided by the new model of governance, Chinese governments and universities reformed their educational polices that govern faculty members’ work. This study focuses specifically on the effects of evaluation policies, salary policies, and funding policies in higher education, as these polices have direct influences on academic work and academic identities. This study reports on a case study at a leading university in China. Using in-depth semi-structured interviews, this study documents how industry collaborations and international collaborations of academics in social science departments are shaped by the changing policies. When the Chinese government responds to the globalizing processes, the policy changes produce significant impacts on higher education. Academics are regulated by polices at both university level and department level. The changing policies applied in Chinese universities are double-edged swords. They affect academic work and professional identities by creating challenges and constraints, as well as opportunities and possibilities. This study shows that Chinese academics cherish the traditional academic values, such as academic freedom, autonomy, self-regulation and control, searching for truth, independent work, and low level of outside interference. Instead of being passive recipients of the education reform and the changing policies, they actively engage in the reforms. Although there are increasing rules regulating their research activities, they still have the capacity to negotiate in their workplace.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Jill Brown

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Education