Mens et Manus et Singapura: Culture, Localization, and Institutional Identity in a Singaporean-American Higher Education Partnership
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Fisher, Dara Ruth
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AbstractOver the last few decades, the field of higher education has experienced a rise in the prevalence of cross-border higher education (CHBE) partnerships, including in student exchange, collaborative research, and development of cross-border programs and institutions. The largest CBHE projects are those in which one university aids in development of a new institution in a different national context, either in the form of an international branch campus or a new, degree-granting institution.
In this dissertation, I examine how institutional culture and identity are communicated from the “sending” institution in one such cross-border partnership, as well as the processes by which local actors at the “receiving” institution modify and adapt these practices to fit the local cultural, political, and educational context. The site for this study is the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), a technical university established in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Using the data collection and analysis techniques of organizational ethnography, the findings of this dissertation are based upon 20 months of observational fieldwork on the MIT and SUTD campuses, as well as 95 formal research interviews with 89 stakeholders across the two institutions.
The findings of this study show that the development of SUTD occurred in four distinct stages – framing, founding, formation, and moves towards the future – and that localization processes occurred differently during the university’s various stages of development, as well as depending on the extent to which original framers at MIT prioritized different aspects of the collaboration. Across all stages of the university’s development, local actors shaped the culture and identity of SUTD to operate and legitimize the institution within the Singaporean higher education ecosystem, aligning the university’s practices and institutional narrative with the economic and cultural priorities of Singaporean policymakers, business leaders, and prospective students and their parents.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:37935839