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Scholarship on international higher education partnerships is often framed by strategic management and organization theories. These approaches are useful, but can minimize how power dynamics and positioning of partners impact engagement and outcomes. This study uses qualitative inquiry to examine 60 international higher education partnerships through the lens of mutuality in order to emphasize how partners negotiate and navigate power. Partnerships were comprised of a university in the U.S. and in the Majority World with the goal of addressing international development challenges. Findings emphasize the process of partnership creation, navigating cross-cultural contexts, partner positioning and partnership dynamics, and stakeholder engagement.

The forces of globalization in tandem with higher education's reputation for improving economic growth and social stability situate the higher education sector as a major player in solving global development challenges [End Page 33] (Deardorff, de Wit, Heyl, & Adams, 2012). Today, many colleges and universities engage in cross-border partnerships to support national and international development goals (Sakamoto & Chapman, 2011; Sutton & Obst, 2011). Yet, the global equity-related challenges of the 21st century are too complex to be solved by development assistance in the form of foreign aid (Koehn, 2012). Although the traditional donor-recipient or path-dependent model of development is still in existence, since the 1990s a partnership paradigm has gained greater traction (Koehn & Obamba, 2012). These international development partnerships exist when "donors seek to address societal priorities in tandem with developing-country institutions" (Koehn & Obamba, 2012, p. 360).

Higher education institutions have increasingly become actors in these international development partnerships. In 1998, the World Conference on Higher Education (WCHE), organized by UNESCO, put forth a call for the higher education sector to become more engaged in international development agendas, particularly sustainable sociocultural and economic development. This conference also highlighted that international cooperation and exchange were major avenues for advancing higher education around the world. The World Declaration on Higher Education for the 21st Century, a statement adopted by WCHE, further explained the importance of international higher education partnerships for development,

The principle of solidarity and true partnership amongst higher education institutions worldwide is crucial for education and training in all fields that encourage an understanding of global issues, the role of democratic governance and skilled human resources in their resolution, and the need for living together with different cultures and values.

A decade later, UNESCO's 2009 World Conference on Higher Education again emphasized these same values and priorities, a message that has been taken up by numerous organizations and initiatives. Today, governments, NGOs, philanthropic foundations, and other funding agencies are providing fiscal support to ensure the engagement and collaboration of higher education institutions in international development initiatives (Koehn, 2012). This support has occurred in tandem with the growth of an internationalization mission within higher education institutions throughout the world (Knight, 2012; Scott, 2006).

Yet, the ability for higher education institutions in the Majority and Minority World1 to work in an equal and collaborative context is often [End Page 34] clouded by challenges. One challenge being a focus on capacity building at the individual or programmatic level, rather than at the institutional level, which can lead to transactional, rather than transformational partnerships (Sutton & Obst, 2011). Transactional partnerships emphasize the exchange of resources, people, or ideas that do not require institutional buy-in or create institutional change (Sutton & Obst, 2011). Conversely, transformational partnerships focus on relationship building between institutions, collaborative efforts, and the development of common goals (Sutton & Obst, 2011). The development of transformational partnerships is made more difficult by asymmetric approaches to engagement in which the Majority World partner is expected to build capacity and learn from the Minority World partner, but not vice versa (Nakabugo, Barrett, McEvoy, & Munck, 2010). Thus, knowledge transfer and capacity building becomes one dimensional and patriarchal, rather than partnership-focused. Higher education institutions continue to shift their emphasis from cross-border mobility of individual students/faculty between the Majority and Minority World to capacity-building and collaboration at the institutional level involving research, teaching/curriculum development, and the creation of programs and campuses (Knight, 2012; Scott, 2006). Therefore, a continued emphasis on partnership engagement and power dynamics between institutions is critical.

I engage these issues by examining international higher education partnerships for development between the Minority World (specifically the United States) and Majority World through the conceptual lens of mutuality (Galtung, 1975, 1980). The increasing growth of this type of partnership has led to calls for greater understanding of the dynamics of power, culture, and respect for local context in these partnerships to avoid homogenizing and hegemonic outcomes (Knight, 2012; Sutton & Obst, 2011). While a number of technical reports and white papers highlight the successes, challenges, and best practices for engaging in international higher education partnerships (e.g., Helms, 2015), there are few published empirical studies examining partnership power dynamics and the positioning of partners from the perspectives of partnership stakeholders themselves. Yet, examining these perspectives is critical in developing a more holistic understanding of partnership development, management, and outcomes.

This study addresses this gap in literature through qualitative inquiry focusing on stakeholders across 60 international higher education partnerships through the conceptual lens of mutuality. Mutuality is comprised of four goals of international engagement that work to reduce power differentials [End Page 35] in partnerships–equity, autonomy, solidarity, and participation (Galtung, 1970, 1980). The partnerships, which were each comprised of an institution2 of higher education in the United States and in the Majority World (referred to in this study as host country institutions), were formed to mobilize the expertise of higher education in order to address global development challenges in areas such as agriculture and the environment, workforce development, education, and health. I explore the following two research questions: How do U.S. and host country partner institutions describe their positioning and partnership dynamics? How do U.S. and host country partner institutions perceive power dynamics influencing mutuality in their partnership engagement and outcomes?

Theoretical Framework

Equality in decision-making, mutual influence, and mutual benefit are key characteristics distinguishing partnerships from other types of relationships (Brinkerhoff, 2002; Jones, 2000). While international higher education partnerships should fundamentally embody these characteristics, fostering them becomes more challenging as partnerships progress from engagement at the narrower program-to-program level to engagement at the broader and more complex institution-to-institution level (Court, 2004; Sakamoto & Chapman, 2011). Higher education partnerships between institutions in Majority and Minority World countries add further complexity due to unequal resources, differing organizational structures, and institutional practices that are difficult to transfer across cultural contexts (Knight, 2012; Tubbeh & Williams, 2010). To center this study on the dynamics found within these types of higher education partnerships, I turn to mutuality as a guiding framework.

Specifically this study is framed by the model of mutuality as conceived by Johan Galtung (1975, 1980). Galtung (1980), a founder of peace and conflict studies, defined mutuality as a contrast to imperialism (e.g., dominance, exploitation). Mutuality is attainable at structural levels (e.g., societies, systems) and individual levels (e.g., person to person, university to university; Orton, 2000) and is "a framework for approaching collaboration with sensitivity to the context of differing cultures and value systems" (Shivan & Hill, 2011, p. 155). According to Galtung (1980), mutuality is comprised of four structurally-oriented goals of international engagement and development: equity, autonomy, solidarity, and participation. Equity emphasizes that aims and types of partnership programs are reached cooperatively through mutual [End Page 36] agreement (Galtung, 1980; Hayhoe, 1986). Thus, partnership engagement reflects cooperation and symmetry rather than domination or imposition from one partner onto the other. The outcome of equity reflects an equal net benefit among partners that can include both material and nonmaterial benefits. Autonomy requires that both partners engage in mutual respect for each other's values, norms, and beliefs. This involves learning about one another's cultures and systems of knowledge (Galtung, 1980; Hayhoe, 1986). The outcome of autonomy reflects deep knowledge about these factors that can lead to dialogue and engagement beyond a superficial level. Solidarity necessitates that collaborative programs encourage strong links and interconnectedness among partners (Galtung, 1980; Hayhoe, 1986). Interaction should be maximized between partners in order for mutual support for one another and the programs to be developed. The outcome of solidarity reflects engaged and sustained relationships between partners. Participation involves Majority World partners participating fully in all activities and contributing to knowledge production on an equal basis with Minority World partners (Galtung, 1980; Hayhoe, 1986). Partnership engagement should not be hierarchical or stratified. The outcome of participation reflects a two-way transfer of knowledge and practices. In order to obtain mutuality, partners must assess the power differential between them at the individual level and structural level and then work to reduce the power differential at all levels (Orton, 2000). In doing so, a partnership gains "a balanced and non-dominating knowledge interaction process that … provides conditions for mutual transformation" (Hayhoe 1989, p. 176).

Much of the current literature on domestic higher education partnerships is framed using strategic management and organization theories (e.g., Eddy, 2010). These approaches are useful in understanding how partnerships function broadly. However, their application to international higher education partnerships is limited because they minimize how the positioning of global partners impact engagement and outcomes. Instead, I use mutuality as a lens to emphasize how partners negotiate and navigate issues of power and cultural contexts. Mutuality has been applied to previous empirical scholarship on international higher education partnerships. For example, Leng and Pan (2013) used the concept to analyze higher education partnerships between Canada and China. The scholars found that developing and sustaining human relationships among partnership participants was a key component of fostering mutuality (Leng & Pan, 2013). Wei and Liu (2015) also conducted a study focusing on a Canadian-Chinese international higher education partnership and found that mutuality, and particularly the tenet of autonomy, played an important role in the success of the partnership. Leng (2013, 2015) explains that the amount of experience with international activities and partnerships impacts a partner's ability to adopt conditions [End Page 37] of mutuality. In a study on Cambodian universities' partnerships with universities in the United States, France, Japan, and South Korea, Leng (2013, 2015) found that the Cambodian-Korean partnership exhibited the lowest level of mutuality. Leng (2013, 2015) attributed this to South Korea's lack of experience with international higher education partnerships as compared with the United States, France, and Japan, as well as the lack of stakeholder engagement between the Cambodian and Korean universities prior to the implementation of the partnership. Overall, these studies demonstrate the utility of the mutuality framework in understanding international higher education partnerships and find that conditions of mutuality can be possible. Yet, while Galtung's model has been applied to scholarship on this topic, it has predominantly been applied within the context of a single partnership or region. Therefore, I extend the use of this model by applying it to multiple higher education partnerships across diverse regions and sectors.


Approach and Sample

This study employs a qualitative, multi-case study analysis (Merriam, 2009). This approach to data collection and analysis of more than one bounded system engages a comparison across cases and is particularly appropriate for gaining deeper understanding of processes (Merriam, 2009). I define each case as a partnership between a U.S. higher education institution and a host country higher education institution, with individual partnership stakeholders as embedded units within the cases.

This sample draws from international higher education partnerships supported by the Higher Education for Development (HED) program. HED worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and operated with the advice and counsel of six U.S. presidential higher education associations. HED supported more than 400 partnerships between higher education institutions in the U.S. and in Majority World nations to address global development challenges. Grants were funded for up to three years for partners to work on faculty and student training needs, conduct applied research, improve academic program offerings, and engage institutions in community outreach–all with the aim of improving the capacity of the host country higher education institution and to contribute to their local and national development goals. In multiple case study research, it is important to use sampling criteria that allow for cases to be compared. The partnerships were selected for this study because they represented a diversity of program sectors, institutional types, and geographic settings. This range of partnerships was important in order to understand how mutuality exists and compares across multiple partnership contexts. While diversity of [End Page 38] partnerships was important, in order to create a comparative sample, each case had to be supported by HED (this allowed for comparable funding levels, institutional capacities, and partnership structures) and be part of a regional impact assessment conducted from 2006 to 2010 (this allowed for similarities in the types of data points available for analysis).

Specifically, I sampled 60 HED partnerships hosted across Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and Mexico (see Table 1).

The partnerships were selected for this study because they represented a diversity of program sectors, institutional types, and geographic settings. Within each partnership, individual stakeholders included U.S. and host-country partnership directors, host-country government officials, host country local community partners, and host-country and U.S. university faculty, students, and staff involved with the partnership. A vast majority of the 60 partnerships in the sample included a U.S. partner that was a public 4-year college or university. In addition, partnerships most frequently had a grant amount of less than $100,000, while the second most frequent grant amount was $100,000 to less than $200,000. One-fourth of partnerships were hosted in South Asia (Bangladesh, India, and Nepal), just over one-fifth were hosted in South East Asia (Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam), one-fifth were hosted in sub-Saharan Africa (Botswana, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Senegal), another one-fifth were hosted in North Africa and the Middle East (Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Tunisia, and United Arab Emirates), and approximately 13% were hosted in Mexico. Development initiatives most often focused on the environment, followed by agriculture, and then education.

Data Collection and Analysis

I used data from six regional impact assessments that were conducted between 2006 and 2012 on the sample of HED partnerships. The data from these assessments included: partnership proposals and final reports; field notes written by HED staff based on direct observations during site visits to host country institutions and extension sites; the verbatim transcripts and interviewer notes of semi-structured individual interviews conducted by HED staff with host country and U.S. partnership stakeholders; and the verbatim transcripts of focus groups conducted by HED staff with host country partnership stakeholders. Individual interviews and focus group interviews ranged in length from twenty minutes to over an hour.

Merriam's (2009) constant comparative method of case study analysis (modified from Glaser & Strauss' (1967) use of constant comparative in grounded theory) shaped the data analysis. This approach was selected to shift the analysis from description to interpretation and reflects a comprehensive analytic process. For this cross-case analysis, each case was compared [End Page 39] to the other 59 cases within the sample. The analysis reflects an iterative and overlapping process, which is typical within qualitative analysis (Creswell, 2007; Merriam, 2009; Stake, 1995). For example, while the constant comparative approach proposes three stages within the coding process (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Merriam, 2009), I often engaged in open and axial coding stages simultaneously in order to revise and adjust codes and categories that were developed during the process.

Table 1. Characteristics of Sample
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Table 1.

Characteristics of Sample

The process was completed in several iterative stages beginning with data management and preliminary analysis/analytic memoing. The data was read multiple times for comparative examination. NVIVO 10 software was utilized to organize and manage all data as a case study database (Merriam, 2009). I utilized deductive and inductive approaches for open coding the data. I engaged a deductive approach by developing sensitizing concepts that included key themes from the framework and interview protocol. The interview protocol guided initial coding by helping me to develop codes that aligned with major themes in the protocol/interview questions (e.g., relationship [End Page 40] building, institutional conditions). Additionally, concepts from the mutuality framework were developed into codes, which included components of solidarity, equity, autonomy, and participation. For example, in investigating the data for how partners engaged (or did not engage) in solidarity, I developed codes relating to how this concept is defined by Galtung (1980) and Hayhoe (1986), which included pre-partnership engagement, building rapport, consistent communication, and post-partnership engagement. This process was repeated for equity, autonomy, and participation. These codes were defined within an NVIVO codebook, and then I reviewed and coded the data with this coding scheme.

I used inductive coding in order to intentionally remain open to patterns emerging from the data (Stake, 1995). During this initial stage of analysis, documents were openly coded for "data that strike as interesting, potentially relevant, or important" (Merriam, 2009, p. 178). For example, as I read through the transcripts, I made annotations at lines within the text that illustrated how HED partnerships were created, implemented, and sustained beyond the grant period. A list of open codes was developed inductively from these annotations along with code definitions that were documented in a codebook within NVIVO. Examples of codes included: aligned partnership goals, lack of cultural awareness, differing expectations, and local community buy-in.

Axial coding was the next stage in the constant comparative method (Merriam, 2009). As aforementioned, I conducted axial coding during the open coding process as well as after initial open codes were developed. Axial coding requires the comparing, contrasting, and linking of open codes into relevant categories (Merriam, 2009). I used NVIVO to reassemble the open codes and combine them in order to view patterns and themes within the cases (Merriam, 2009). This process also helped to synthesize the inductive coding with the mutuality framework. For example, during the inductive coding process, I developed the codes local community buy-in and limited interaction. Both of these codes relate to building relationships within the partnerships, which coincides with the solidarity tenet of mutuality. I placed these codes within the broader solidarity category and used data within these codes/category to more deeply understand how solidarity was or was not reflected within individual cases. This process was repeated for each of the four mutuality tenets and thus, through this axial coding, the original codebook was refined.

Next, I engaged in cross-case analysis through selective coding to identify the prominent themes that cut across the cases (Merriam, 2009). Four themes emerged, reflecting the issues and processes that broadly demonstrated how mutuality was developed and engaged in across partnerships: (a) process of partnership creation; (b) navigating cross-cultural contexts; (c) partner [End Page 41] positioning and partnership dynamics; and (d) stakeholder engagement. These four categories were further condensed into two themes that respond to the research questions and are presented in the Findings: (a) describing partner positioning and partnership dynamics and (b) perceptions of partnership engagement.

Limitations and Data Quality

There were a number of conflicting explanations within the data between information provided in final partnership reports and the narratives provided by partnership stakeholders during interviews. For example, while a final report might state that partnership engagement reflected equal contributions from both parties, stakeholder interview transcripts might reflect the opposite perspective. Or, there were instances in which different stakeholders within the same partnership described power dynamics quite differently. However, my methodological approach was centered in social constructivism, which lessens the emphasis on which participants are "correct" in their narratives, allowing the focus to be on incorporating the multiple perspectives that emerged (Crotty, 2010). Using qualitative methods to examine these perspectives was most appropriate in order to obtain in-depth, detailed, and rich information from participants (Creswell, 2007). I utilized thick descriptions (Krefting, 1999) wherever possible to ensure that the reader can clearly see the connections between a participant's experience, my interpretation of that experience, and the broader conclusions that were reached. In addition, the partnerships discussed in this article reflect unique contexts, resources, stakeholders, and outcomes. In using a diverse sample of partnerships, providing a detailed description of the methods, and using thick, rich description and extensive quotes throughout the findings, the transferability of the study is improved (Krefting, 1999).

I engaged in rigorous processes to ensure data quality through the use of triangulation. Data was triangulated in two main ways. I incorporated methodological triangulation by utilizing multiple forms of data (interviews, observations, reports; Krefting, 1999; Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Data was collected on multiple occasions and from a number of sources/stakeholders, which reflects data triangulation (Krefting, 1999; Lincoln & Guba, 1985). While I do not suggest that each source provided the same data/narratives, engaging multiple data sources provided a richer and more detailed understanding of the cases. Additionally, I used a multi-step strategy to construct and validate the consistent use of the codebook. Dependability checks were conducted with two HED staff members to reexamine or refine codes as well as to create new ones where needed (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). For example, their knowledge of how cases were connected to the HED organization led us to create codes related to the external and structural support of partnerships (which impacted the ability to achieve mutuality). This process required developing [End Page 42] a shared perception of a phenomenon and regularly communicating to ensure in terpretations of codes and data were consistent (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Working with the HED staff was important, particularly given my own positionality as an outsider to the organization. While, I worked with HED for two years to conduct research and evaluation, I was not a full-time employee or a stakeholder in any of the partnerships. This outsider perspective as an academic who engages in scholarship on internationalization in higher education was advantageous in having a broader sense of the subject matter and experience with research. However, spending prolonged time with the HED organization and working with its staff helped to balance my outsider positioning with their insider knowledge on the organization and the partnerships it supported.


Findings are organized around two themes that are informed by the mutuality framework: (a) describing partner positioning and partnership dynamics and (b) perceptions of partnership engagement. The first theme centers on the first research question (How do U.S. and host country partner institutions describe their positioning and partnership dynamics?). It reflects stakeholders' discussion of partnership positioning and dynamics as well as the factors that positively and negatively impacted their positioning and dynamics. The next theme centers on the second research question (How do U.S. and host country partner institutions perceive power dynamics influencing mutuality in their partnership engagement and outcomes?). This theme demonstrates how partnership engagement is situated within the initial process of creating international higher education partnerships. It also emphasizes how partners' perceptions of themselves and one another impacted their engagement in the partnership.

While I use these broader themes to structure the findings section, the themes are overlapping and interconnected. In addition, it is important to note that while the findings demonstrate evidence of each theme within cases, the partnerships do not fit neatly into the themes or tenets of mutuality, as they were evolving and complex. Therefore, I am not suggesting that any one case is completely reflective of a single theme or mutuality tenet, but rather that partnerships demonstrate evidence of the themes discussed.

Describing Partner Positioning and Partnership Dynamics

Local ownership and a bottom-up approach were how participants across partnerships described the ways in which equal power dynamics could be achieved. For example, a U.S. partner explained how they engaged in a partnership in Namibia, "[We] never see ourselves as having the answer. We just try to be useful, it [input from U.S. partners] has to be based on the Namibian [End Page 43] reality." Similarly with a partnership in India a U.S. partner stated, "In order to develop trust between partners, treat people the way you want to be treated … We did not try to impose our own [U.S.] values. We empowered them [host country partners] to make this project theirs."

Participants expressed that cooperation required consistent engagement between partners. For example, 92% of partnerships described ongoing exchanges as one way to achieve this, although most were U.S. students and faculty traveling to the host country. Stakeholders in a partnership between the United States and Croatia had regular interactions, which fostered a solid relationship between them. A senior administrator at the host country university explained that for the host country partners, "it's [a] good relationship and good partnership because I know that they are quite active with [the U.S. institution] and in exchange visits, scientific collaboration … and in developing curricula." Within that partnership, all of the stakeholders cited a strong relationship. Positive outcomes for host country partners such as increased operational capacity of the institution and increased confidence in partnership engagement appeared to be the result of a bottom-up approach to collaboration.

Conversely, when partners lacked communication, partnership dynamics were negatively impacted. For example, a Kosovar stakeholder from a partnership between U.S. and Kosovo institutions explained, "I would characterize it as loose, a very loose relationship, because I didn't have much information. I don't know who was in charge for what part. I couldn't see that someone was leading something." In this case, there was a major miscommunication between the institutions in who would lead the accreditation process of a program that was being developed through the partnership, which led to stalled implementation and a lack of partner engagement after the HED grant period ended.

Twenty-one partnerships discussed local ownership by host country partners as a means for attaining sustained outcomes, specifically citing participatory decision-making and establishing trust between stakeholders. A U.S. stakeholder explained their partnership with an institution in Bangladesh,

It is important that the host country partner is the initiator, rather than us; and that the host country partner continues to lead the project … Avoid creating a culture of receiving donor money without investment from the host country partner's side; only then can you build local ownership for the long-haul.

Partners did not always receive identical benefits from their engagement, but mutuality meant that the benefits were equitable. Participants explained that for both partners to benefit, reciprocity and similar goals and expectations between the two had to be established. This was present in a partnership in Ghana, when the host country stakeholders explained that, "the partnership [End Page 44] played on the strengths of both sides and was of mutual benefit to both institutions in different, but equally important ways." Another stakeholder stated, "We cherish these partnerships when they are true partnerships. … We want to position ourselves to play to our strengths. … and that is what these partnerships provide."

Local communities in the host country were also a part of how participants defined the concept of local ownership. While this was important, developing relationships with local communities was also a challenge as partners at a university in Mexico described,

Locations may be institutions of higher learning, but there needs to be joint participatory relations with local communities and joint oversight. This is difficult due to the influence of social class and the position of formal academic institutions in society, but without it there will be insufficient breadth in supporting constituencies.

Within a project in the Philippines, partners tried to engage local ownership within the community by "legitimizing community participation in decision-making; engaging farmers' associations and watershed associations and changing thinking among government officers and bureaucracies toward listening and taking account of local knowledge and interests." Altogether eight partnerships discussed the use of community-centered and participatory action research as components of their projects. For example, partners in Namibia stated,

Participatory action research included community so that [the host institution] can continue [the] project after [U.S. partners] return to the U.S. The projects … succeed and are sustained not only because of the involvement of local students, but also due to local community involvement. Working with and training the locals allows for the project to continue once the [higher education institution partners] leave.

Centering the local communities within partnerships could foster greater trust between the institutions and the local community as well as help build important alliances between higher education institution partners and local community members in the host country.

Some participants described a key to partnership development and success being an understanding of the host country partner institution and context. For example, in a U.S.-Mexico project, one of the proposed outcomes was to develop an academic program at the Mexican institution that would replicate a similar program at the U.S. partner institution. However, a stakeholder from the university in Mexico proposed that a needs assessment be conducted before implementing the program to ensure a fit with the host country institution. Additionally, the stakeholders expressed that [End Page 45] the courses should be tailored to the context of the host country institution and not merely replicate U.S. teaching material.

A number of partnerships found that HED requests for proposals (RFPs) did not align with host country institution needs or goals. A Kosovo partnership coordinator explained,

When it was announced, the RFP was calling for establishing a graduate program in accountancy here. But when we [U.S. and Kosovo partners] look at the curriculum of [the] accountancy program … we established that actually what's missing here is not a graduate [program], but [an] undergraduate program.

This example demonstrates the importance of initial partnership communication and assessment. Without doing so, the partners may have developed a graduate program in accountancy, which was not what the university needed most. While RFPs provided scaffolding for partnerships, it was the partners' knowledge of context and expertise that were critical for creating a project that matched the host countries' institutional needs and development goals. Host country stakeholders also knew the distinct socio-historical, cultural, economic, and political environment of the host society. While this understanding could be indispensable to the partnership process, it oftentimes went underutilized during partnership implementation, an issue that will be further discussed in the next section.

A number of participants explained that host country partners should initiate partnership objectives and vision. Stakeholders from a U.S.-Nepal project described,

A need to define partnership objectives at the host-country institution; too often the goals and objectives for host institutions are developed outside of the institution, leading to a mismatch in objectives of the partners and an inability to fully achieve desired outcomes.

A stakeholder from a U.S-Mexico partnership also expressed this sentiment, "The project should be developed from inside the Mexican institution–should be rooted in the institution, in order to get the full benefit. [It is] important to have the Mexican institutions involved from the beginning of proposal development." Centering partnership development within the host country context required that U.S. partners not impose their own objectives and management processes because this could lead to lack of project buy-in by host country stakeholders, project mismatch, and barriers to successful project outcomes. One Ghanaian participant described how a U.S.-Ghana project experienced this challenge,

They [the U.S. partners] had objectives. It was their project … Had the partners set aside the time to plan and communicate together before the beginning of [End Page 46] the activities … a better understanding of Ghanaian and U.S. challenges would have emerged, leading to a truly joint partnership.

It was difficult to develop a mutual and joint approach to partnerships due to cross-cultural challenges and variable communication and engagement between partners. Yet, without this approach to partnership development some participants explained that the host country partner could become disregarded by the U.S. partner or become disengaged from the project.

Perceptions of Partnership Engagement

Ninety percent of partnership stakeholders cited that a critical aspect of a successful partnership was the deliberate time and attention given to planning before implementation as it allowed for the development of effective and realistic goals for the project. This included having both partners write the grant proposal together, conducting needs assessments and observations at the host country institution, and engaging in consistent communication with stakeholders through planning meetings to develop partnership objectives. U.S. and host country partners in Egypt initially planned to create a two-year Master's degree, but after performing a needs assessment, they saw that this was not feasible because of university policies such as specific admission requirements, a mandatory emphasis on research versus applied practice, and a culminating thesis. However, because the partners were able to recognize this issue early on, they were able to modify their plan to create a more effective post-graduate Diploma. On the other hand, in a partnership between a U.S. institution and a Moroccan institution who proposed a joint Ph.D. program in which Moroccan students would take courses at both institutions, a participant explained, "Both sides made initial assumptions regarding tuition waivers and research budgets that resulted in delays in and changes to the implementation plan … Partners could have done more homework in advance." In this case, lack of doing "more homework in advance" about the policies and processes required for this project led to challenges to the partnership at later phases and a decision to remove the joint degree program.

Participants explained that a way to lessen challenges to effective project planning and initial development was by partners forming connections prior to being awarded the HED grant. A prior strong working relationship between host country and U.S. stakeholders allowed more time to be focused on partnership implementation during the award period. In a Laos-U.S. partnership, U.S. stakeholders explained that they spent seven years working in Laos prior to the HED grant and "eased our way into this program." Similarly, Croatian and U.S. partners met a few years prior to proposing an HED grant, when faculty and staff from a Croatian university visited the United States to learn more about the American higher education system. [End Page 47] During this visit, informal dialogue and engagement occurred between the Croatians and faculty and staff at a university in the U.S., which provided a foundation for relationship building between them before the HED grant was developed. This may have led to what both partners later described as an equal positioning in terms of partnership development. One Croatian student described this partnership beginning through an idea developed together by partners from the U.S. and Croatia, "It was really cooperation because there [was an] idea from an [American] professor, and also from [a Croatian] professor here … so they really give some suggest[ions] to both. So it was [an] interactive process … so it was really a cooperation." U.S. and Croatian partners had strong engagement, which fostered the development of a solid working relationship. This type of early relationship building and shared approach to partnership development was mentioned as important by a number of participants. Partners described this approach as helping to establish collaborative and participatory processes throughout the partnerships.

Yet, there were also many challenges to creating the type of mutual and reciprocal relationships that many participants described a desire to develop. Five partnerships stated that they had predominantly unequal partnership dynamics. Furthermore, there were a number of host country partners who did not believe that they had the ability or resources to have a leadership role on their project. U.S. stakeholders in some partnerships also positioned themselves as more dominant during project development. Across cases, the data demonstrates host country partners being perceived as contributing knowledge of the host country context, host country institution, and potential local stakeholders. Conversely, U.S. partners were perceived to bring content knowledge about the project as well as research skills to partnerships. For example, in defining the contributions of the U.S. partner institution, one host country project director explained, "[The U.S. institution] brought to the table the research experience, research methodologies, the experience in writing proposals. And generally an experience in scientific writing." A Macedonian project director explained that the primary contributions of their U.S. partner were "support," "expertise," and "training" of host country staff and that the, "[U.S. institution] brought to the table their experience, so the way they were functioning." These examples are demonstrative of the perception that U.S. partners were most often bringing research skills and expertise. Conversely, host county partners were not perceived to have these skills, but instead were described as making other contributions. A host country stakeholder explained that the Croatian partners contributed their local contacts and networks; "we have been a valuable partner because we have [a] network that can go to every region, even to the very sensitive regions, which are war torn … that gives you a picture of how we established this network of collaboration." Having partners from two different parts [End Page 48] of the world had the ability to provide diverse perspectives and viewpoints that could positively affect how partnerships were created and implemented. However, the perceptions of what partners could and could not contribute to partnerships could also have a negative impact and reflect unequal power dynamics between U.S. and host country partners.

Although host country partners were knowledgeable of their institutional and country contexts more so than their U.S. partners, they were not always included in partnership development. Alternatively, some host country partners were consulted towards the end of project development or at the beginning of project implementation, which did not use their knowledge and expertise in an effective way. Namibian partners expressed that their project had already been predominantly developed by the time they were conferred about it, which they believe led to the project not being a good fit with the needs of their community. The participants explained that this outcome could have been avoided if they were given the opportunity to inform their U.S. partners about the local context, collaborate with them on outreach efforts, and be more involved in the development of the program. This example demonstrates how in some cases, capitalizing on the local knowledge and expertise of the host country partners did not occur. A stakeholder in Ghana likewise described that shared ownership was not developed between themselves and their U.S. partner because the U.S. university was the dominant force within the partnership. Referencing a website that was established as a component of the partnership, this stakeholder explained, "it [website] wasn't managed in Ghana, but was hosted in [the U.S.]. There was a bit of challenge around sustaining it. It wasn't entirely in our control. We should have been hosting the site throughout the partnership." This example demonstrates that unequal partnership dynamics could negatively impact the sustainability of project outcomes.

One reason for unequal partner positioning is explained by a faculty member at a university in Macedonia, "Most of the initiatives were from [the U.S. institution] … they did the actions. Sort of leading … and then because of the lack of experience from our university and our staff, I think that we [we]re not so very initiative[-driven] in the beginning." Similarly, the U.S. project director for a Kosovo partnership described,

Obviously, because this was designed to introduce [an] American degree in accountancy into a Kosovo institution, we're obviously setting forth the terms of the partnership and in that sense we [U.S. university] were probably more dominant … the initiative came from us and from the design of the project itself by HED and so it has a distinctly American character about it.

While I cannot ascertain causation, the patterns within cases suggest partnerships with less equal dynamics also had greater challenges in achieving and [End Page 49] sustaining project objectives. For example, one Macedonian stakeholder saw "the contribution of the [host institution], we had the role to be disciples … and we could either be a well-disciplined disciple or not so well-disciplined disciple. So in some cases we were disciplined disciples and we worked with our mentors [U.S. stakeholders]." Another explained, "from the perspective of [the U.S. university], I think that [the host country university] for them was as a child, which grow[s] up in [a] good and healthy environment … Give [them] this basic education as a new institution. Being the mother." These statements describe the Macedonian partner as a disciple and child, while the U.S. partner was described as a mentor and mother. This demonstrates a clear, stratified positioning of each partner. This partnership in Macedonia, which appeared to have had an unequal power dynamic between the U.S. and host-country stakeholders, also seemed to have sustained fewer partnership outcomes among the sampled Eastern European partnerships.

Still, it is important to note that dynamics and contributions were not static in these partnerships. For example, one stakeholder from Croatia explained,

They [U.S. higher education institutions] feel they have expertise and locals are just, they don't have a clue of anything. Well these guys [U.S. partner], after a while they started to believe that we [host country partner] do have a clue so they let us kind of influence them. So this is actually what I think gave so many spinoffs, this understanding of theirs and this expertise in outreach where they [U.S. partner] … learned to be flexible.

The Macedonian stakeholders were also able to gain confidence in their role in the partnership over time, but the dynamic was never fully equal with the U.S. partners. One host country stakeholder expressed,

[The host country] university always relied on [U.S. university] because of their experience … but from their [U.S. partner] side, it was equal. However, we [host country university] always give them preference whenever they start because, of course, their experience. And they have come here to help … but they were very careful not to impose something … [We] started in partnership and then independently [grew] up.

Thus, for some participants the dynamics between partners evolved over time and became more equitable and mutual. Yet, how partnerships were initially framed and set up appeared to dramatically impact stakeholder perceptions about their roles and capabilities at the onset of partnership engagement and management. This leader-follower tone, once established at the beginning of partnerships, appeared to maintain itself to some extent throughout. [End Page 50]


The higher education sector, in the rapidly changing context of globalization, faces a myriad of challenges as well as a number of opportunities to contribute its expertise to international development challenges (Deardoff et al., 2012; Knight, 2012). International higher education partnerships play an increasingly important role in enhancing institutional capacity and supporting broader national and international development goals (Koehn & Obamba, 2012). This necessitates more than anecdotal consideration of the processes and implications of such activity. Framed by mutuality, this study expands the body of empirical research on international higher education partnerships for development and more specifically the role of partnership power dynamics on partnership success. Thus, I use the tenets of mutuality to frame the discussion of this study's findings and subsequent implications.

Equity, one of the four tenets of mutuality, requires that partners jointly agree on partnership goals and outcomes (Galtung, 1980; Hayhoe, 1986). Findings suggest the importance of equity in the creation of HED projects in order to establish a foundation for partnerships' implementation. A number of partners described the need for local ownership of the project and active engagement from host country stakeholders. However, a major stumbling block to the operationalization of equity occurred when host country partners were not a full part of the planning process of the project grant. In these cases, the development of the grant proposal was led by the U.S. partner or was submitted before both partners had the opportunity to develop a strong working relationship. This may have been due in part to how early HED grants were organized (e.g., grant proposals had to be submitted by the U.S. partner, requests for proposals were not developed by host country institutions, minimal requirements regarding prior partnership engagement). Thus, project needs could be developed by the grant-funding organization and then grants proposed by the U.S. partner institution, both without significant input from the host country partner institution. This process of partnership creation runs counter to recommendations for development-focused international higher education partnerships, which emphasizes bi-directional engagement and movement beyond a donor-recipient/aid model (Koehn, 2012; Samoff & Carrol, 2004). For example, Wei and Liu's (2015) study found that equity was fostered between partners when they engaged directly with one another to develop project contracts and plans, rather than through a third-party funding organization. Without intentionality in fostering equity, host country partners were put at a clear positional disadvantage in how the project was initially decided and developed. While Wei and Liu (2015) describe equity as a component of mutuality that develops over time, the findings in the current study demonstrate that if a dynamic that is not centered on the local [End Page 51] context was developed early on, it was difficult to change and could lead to unrealistic or inadequate project goals.

Partnerships that did demonstrate equity in project development often had pre-existing, established relationships in which both U.S. and host country stakeholders' voices were present in the creation process. In these cases, the institutions did not come together for the purpose of pursuing the HED grant/project, but instead had a previous working relationship that led to the development of the project over time. This finding parallels extant literature, which validates that capacity building and sustainable development through international higher education partnerships requires long-term commitment (Deardoff et al., 2012; Helms, 2015; Koehen & Obamba, 2014). Leng's (2015) study on Cambodian universities' partnerships with universities in the United States, France, Japan, and South Korea also reflects this issue. Findings from Leng's study show that the partnerships reflecting the least equity was with South Korean universities, whom the Cambodian universities had no prior working relationship. Leng (2015) explained, "Those Korean universities usually came with their own agenda and approach to collaboration, of which RUPP [Cambodian university] was not fully aware when signing an agreement" (p. 269).

The development of relationships between partners aligns with the mutuality tenet of solidarity, which focuses on strong links and interconnectedness among partners (Galtung, 1980; Hayhoe, 1986). Findings illustrate that continued communication, support, learning, and relationship building throughout a partnership was important for developing positive stakeholder dynamics. For example, all partners engaged in various forms of exchange, which was described as a key way to maintain communication and build trust and rapport between partners. While it appeared that many of the exchanges in this study were from the United States to the host country, Wei and Liu's (2015) study showed that partners emphasized exchanges from China to Canada. Yet, both studies demonstrate that exchanges do not necessarily foster equal partnership dynamics on their own, particularly if exchanges are only unidirectional or if the U.S. stakeholders come to the host country institution as experts, rather than as a partners (Wei & Liu, 2015; Wiley & Root, 2003).

The findings also emphasize that solidarity could not only be considered between U.S. and host country institutions, but also involved relationships with the local host country community. Transnational town-gown engagement creates another power dynamic at play, and while some institutions engaged in participatory and/or action-research oriented projects that sought to work with local communities in a way that aligned with mutuality, this was not found in the majority of partnerships. While extant literature does discuss the formation of relationships with higher education institutions in other countries and with the host country government as an important [End Page 52] component of solidarity (Leng, 2013; Leng & Pan, 2013; Wei & Liu, 2015), none of these studies emphasized relationship building with host country local community members or grassroots organizations. Thus, I encourage future researchers to consider not only solidarity and mutuality between universities in cross-border partnerships, but also between these partners and local community members in the host country as a means of extending scholarly understanding of how solidarity can be developed.

Equity and solidarity work hand in hand with autonomy, a mutuality tenet that emphasizes partners learning about one another's cultures and systems (Galtung, 1980; Hayhoe, 1986). Although much of the published scholarship on mutuality and international higher education partnerships discusses the achievement of autonomy (e.g., Leng, 2013, 2015; Leng & Pan, 2013; Wei & Liu, 2015), findings in the current study highlight a more one-directional learning process. Host country stakeholders often described a desire to learn from U.S. partners in order to improve their own skills and knowledge. However, while U.S. partners may have had content knowledge and expertise related to the international development issue, they were not always familiar with host country policies, culture, infrastructure, and needs. Some U.S. stakeholders clearly acknowledged this information gap and depended on their host country partners' local knowledge or sought to learn more about the local context. Yet, this level of interest must be sustained throughout the partnership in order to achieve autonomy. Leng and Pan (2013) found that this was difficult for a China-Canada partnership in which there was initial autonomous behavior during project planning, but "during the program implementation, the Canadian side was less willing to adjust its partnership models to the realities of the Chinese context" (p. 11). Thus, in order to achieve autonomy, Minority World countries must not only learn about Majority World environments and cultures, but must also integrate this into the multiple phases of a partnership.

Even when U.S. partners discussed a desire to engage in gaining a deeper knowledge of the host country/institution context, none discussed a desire to learn from host country partners in a way that could help to improve their U.S. processes or systems. Thus, the predominant dynamic described was that host country institutions learned from their U.S. partners, which is a one-directional form of knowledge transfer (Nakabugo et al., 2010). Furthermore, findings revealed that host country partners often saw their U.S. peers as teachers or mentors, rather than as equal partners. While this was not typically described as a negative factor, this type of positioning reinforces a dynamic that can overlook the innovations and practices of host country institutions from which U.S. higher education systems can learn and benefit. It also creates a context in which the U.S. partner is the knowledge bringer, while the host country is the knowledge receiver, both of which run counter [End Page 53] to mutuality (Hayhoe, 1986). Lack of autonomy within some partnerships appeared to foster a leader-follower dynamic at least in initial partnership creation and implementation.

The final mutuality tenet, participation, reflects both partners participating fully in project activities and contributing to knowledge production on an equal basis (Galtung, 1980; Hayhoe, 1986). While U.S. partners often described the importance of full participation from host country partners, in practice a number of factors could impede this. One may stem from the process of partnership creation, which as aforementioned, could be initiated by U.S. institutions prior to a foundational relationship being built with a host country institution. Another explanation relates to the perception of what each partner could contribute to the projects. Findings demonstrated that U.S. institutions were perceived to contribute content knowledge and research expertise, while host country institutions were perceived to contribute an understanding of local context and social networks. While both types of contributions were critical, these perceptions could stratify how partners then engaged in related tasks, even if the perceptions were not accurate. For example, when host country institution partners had research experience, but did not assume leadership or provide a strong voice in research-related tasks due to perceptions that U.S. partners were more knowledgeable. This type of perception and one-directional knowledge transfer to Majority World countries was also present in Leng's (2013) and Leng and Pan's (2013) studies on international higher education partnerships and mutuality. However, in both of these studies, Minority World partners recognized this issue and worked to engage in participatory approaches that encouraged Majority World partners to be involved in decision-making. Unfortunately, most stakeholders in the current study did not appear to assess their power differential during the partnership in order to reduce it, which is a major condition of mutuality (Orton, 2000). Still, a number of host country stakeholders described gaining confidence in their own abilities and contributions over the life of their project, which allowed them to have a stronger voice and more balanced interaction with their U.S. partners over time.

Overall, across partnerships both U.S. and host country institutions described recognition that there was a power differential, which positioned them differently within their partnerships. Additionally, many discussed that this power dynamic played a role in setting a tone and foundation for further project and partnership engagement. What was noticeably absent from their narratives was formal processes/actions or intentional dialogue between partners to mitigate the power differential that existed. Some U.S. partners expressed a desire to not dominate the partnership and to promote mutuality; however, this was described more as an aspiration than in terms of specific actions. Furthermore, many host country partners actually [End Page 54] described a desire for their U.S. partners to play a dominant role at least initially, but then evolve away from that over time as host country partners gained confidence in their skills and abilities for their project. However, once a partnership dynamic is set, it may be difficult to shift it towards a more symmetrical form of engagement later (Koehn & Obamba, 2014). Thus, there was a disconnect present, which can be described as an ideological desire for mutuality but a lack of complete mutuality in practice. While genuine and positive partnerships can exist without all of the tenets of mutuality being met, it may leave open the potential for dependent or transactional engagement and lack of culturally-relevant and context-driven goals and outcomes (Koehn & Obamba, 2012; Sutton & Obst, 2011).


The experiences of partnerships between U.S. institutions and institutions in the Majority World within this study have a number of implications for research and practice. While much of the rhetoric surrounding international higher education partnerships emphasizes transformational and reciprocal relationships (Knight, 2012; Sutton & Obst, 2011), it must be supported by empirical evidence, which will inform best practices to achieve those goals. Thus, it is imperative that scholars continue to examine the purpose, motivations, and drivers of international higher education partnerships. Specific attention must be paid not just to partnership outcomes, but also to partnership engagement. To date, much of the work on international higher education partnerships emphasize capacity building and sustainability (Helms, 2015), but what is lacking is whether these outcomes occur through one-sided, external support or a two-way transfer of knowledge and mutual benefit. This type of research would benefit from the use of critical theories and frameworks, which will directly bring issues of power and domination to the forefront in order to assess their role in partnership engagement and success. In addition, as nations in the Majority World continue to use their higher education institutions as agents for social change, we will continue to see international higher education partnerships created outside of Majority-Minority World collaborations or Minority-Minority World collaborations (Koehn & Obamba, 2014). Thus, researchers should consider the presence of mutuality in other configurations including Majority-Majority World collaborations and diasporic collaborations, which will provide additional insight into the dynamics and processes of diverse international higher education partnerships.

A major aspect of mutuality, autonomy, which involves learning about partners' cultures and systems of knowledge, moves beyond a superficial or "one size fits all" approach to partnership engagement (Galtung, 1980; [End Page 55] Hayhoe, 1986). Thus, researchers and practitioners must also acknowledge, learn, and engage in the localized context of the home and host countries in order to develop partnerships reflecting mutuality. This includes the unique socio-historical, political, cultural, and economic characteristics of partner countries. Furthermore, as this study demonstrates, partnerships are not solely between universities. They also include local host community stakeholders who were not treated homogenously in these partnerships. In some cases, projects were conducted in a participatory manner, while in others these stakeholders did not have a role in planning or implementation. Yet, characteristics of mutuality such as mutual benefit and solidarity would suggest that the buy-in of local communities is essential to project sustainability and impact. Thus, in order to truly engage the concept of mutuality in international higher education partnerships, future scholarship must also emphasize the positioning of local host communities.

Future research should consider how funding and partner institutions' resources and infrastructure impact the development of mutuality. This study reflects partnerships with HED grants that were small and meant to act as seed funding that could lead to larger grants and sustainable projects. While some partnerships were able to secure future funding or already had additional resources and infrastructure to support the projects, others did not. This likely affected the development of mutuality (e.g., greater resources and staff can help with maintaining consistent communication between partners). While investigating this is beyond the scope of the data in this study, I recommend scholars consider the role of grant size and institutional infrastructure/resources as this can help shed light on the types of support needed to achieve mutuality in international higher education partnerships.

Majority World higher education institutions are experiencing more diverse opportunities for partnerships beyond the Minority World (Koehn & Obamba, 2014). In fact, the International Association of Universities' (IAU) Global Survey demonstrates that the U.S. and Canada are no longer seen as the top priority when establishing partnerships abroad for higher education institutions in regions including the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa (IAU, 2010). For U.S. institutions of higher education, engaging in authentic partnership building that is mutual and reciprocal may be one way to reinvigorate interest. Thus, this study can provide a number of implications for practice. First, it is unlikely that international higher education partnerships will prioritize mutuality if it is not an expectation of the organizations that finance their projects (e.g., governments, NGOs, philanthropic foundations). Thus, transformation is also needed at the funding agency level in order to create structural change that emphasizes partnerships focused on sustained engagement and mutual benefit. Inclusion of Majority World higher education institutions in the development [End Page 56] of requests for proposals impacting their institutions and home countries, requirements that grant proposals be written by both partners involved in the project, and requisites that prior engagement and working relationships between partners be established prior to grant proposal submission are ways to move in the direction of creating an ethos of mutuality in international higher education partnerships.

The integration of mutuality into campus cross-border efforts may help to re-shape how U.S. institutions engage their internationalization missions for the better. For example, the internationalization of U.S. higher education has been viewed as promoting an elitist, hegemonic agenda (Altbach, 2004; Knight, 2012; Stier, 2004). Yet, mutuality moves away from this by recognizing that differences in power and positionality do exist in cross-border work, but can be reduced if given attention. Many colleges and universities in the United States have offices that provide training to faculty/staff engaged in international partnerships about project/grant management and related policies. Some funding agencies offer this type of information and training to both U.S. and host country partners as well. Yet, it is important that partners engage in intentional dialogue and learn about unequal power dynamics and the development of mutuality as issues that can influence partnership success as well. These offices and agencies should incorporate on-going professional development and support on issues such as power dynamics, two-way knowledge transfer, reciprocity, and other mutuality-related topics to partners as a means of achieving the goals of mutuality.

Mutuality can also be incorporated into how partnerships/projects are assessed and reported. For example, mutuality recognizes that not all resources are tangible/material and that both partners are critical to the success of projects (Brinkerhoff, 2002). Therefore partnership contributions can include non-material resources such as knowledge of host country context and access to local stakeholders. The findings demonstrate that these resources were often provided by host country partners, but were given little or no weight during project implementation. It is an important expectation that these types of resources be given equitable acknowledgement as a contribution to partnerships within project assessments and reports. Doing so formally acknowledges the indispensability of the host country partner, demonstrates a reciprocal relationship, and promotes greater equality within partnership dynamics. Another factor that should be incorporated into partnership/project assessment is the level of host country community integration within the project. While this engagement may not look the same in every partnership/host country, minimally it could require local community members being involved in partnership planning, utilizing their expertise, and garnering their support for the project. This type of local community buy-in [End Page 57] and ownership is essential to the development of mutuality in international higher education partnerships.

While issues beyond partner positioning and partnership dynamics also affect the success of international higher education partnerships, the findings of this study suggest the utility of giving critical attention to issues of mutuality within the development and management of these collaborations. How partnerships are initially framed and formed can impact stakeholder perceptions about their roles and capabilities at the onset of partnership creation and throughout engagement. Even in cases where both partners benefit, there may be differing motivations for collaboration as well as differences in how outcomes are valued and assessed by partners (Sakamoto & Chapman, 2011; Samoff & Carol, 2004). Yet institutional pressure to increase internationalization efforts, improve reputation, and generate revenue can overshadow attention to these important issues. Heightened attention to mutuality can help individuals and institutions in partnerships uphold the shared ethical principles of higher education, such as the promotion of positive social change, non-malfeasance, and justice, to better serve their communities locally and globally.

Chrystal A. George Mwangi

Chrystal A. George Mwangi is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the Department of Educational Policy, Research, and Administration at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Address queries to Chrystal A. George Mwangi, Department of Educational Policy, Research and Administration, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA 01003; telephone: (413) 545-0747; fax: (413) 545–1523; email:


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1. Majority and Minority World refer to two world areas. Majority World refers to areas in which most of the world's population and landmass are located, but are often economically poorer (Alam, 2008). Minority World refers to economically more privileged countries (Alam, 2008). These terms are inherently problematic due to the dichotomy they create, which many countries do not fit within neatly. I recognize that countries within the Majority and Minority World are not homogenous. However given the scope of this article, making this distinction allows for reflection on the unequal dynamics and power relations between these two world areas.

2. In this article, institutions refer to colleges, universities, and organizations providing tertiary/higher education.

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