Presentation 3

Strategic Methods of Reaping Competitive Advantage in Cross-Border Higher Education Sector

(Assessment of Localisation and Resource-leverage policies in international tertiary education institutes)

Farshid Shams

PhD Student

School of Management

University of Bath


This statement is to present the interest area of the author for a PhD research. It can be categorised under both topics of Strategic management and International business.

The whole discussion is in the arena of building competitive advantage and sustaining methods. This research is attempting to probe into less-discussed areas of competitive advantage and appraise its different meanings in the light of the nature of different industries/sectors.

In particular, the concentration is on Higher Education (HE) sector in the global market place. The Higher education (HE) sector is facing strong waves of globalisation in which it has to comply or lead.

On one hand, Higher education sector is expected to lead societies in terms of generating knowledge and capacity building for further society improvement. This view argues that institutes operating in higher education cannot go away from quality standards.

On the other hand, from a business perspective, these institutes are supposed to look after their profitability to survive. This stimulates them to move towards market-driven policies which are in contradiction with the other side of the spectrum, responsibility, to some extent.

“They [Universities] need to incorporate a greater market orientation into their strategic planning process to acquire a competitive advantage over their rivals. To which market(s) they should address themselves; however, is a complex issue.” (Conway et al, 1994)

Considering the trends in this sector, universities are supposed to design and undertake their dominant policy while swinging between these two extremes. So, “What are the patterns of competitive advantage in international Higher Education?” would be a relevant and important question to ask.

In this precise report, two paradoxes are identified that each one needs a profound investigation to the root of the challenge.

The first paradox is “Market adaptation Vs Resource leverage”. This would compare and contrast two approaches of “Inside-Out” and “Outside-In”. Application of this dichotomy to HE context arises the debate whether a cross-border expanding university should elaborate and emphasise more on Research activities (Knowledge generation/ Inside-out perspective) or the main concentration should be on teaching and delivery activities( Knowledge transferring/ Outside-in perspective).

The second dichotomy is defined as “Global synergy Vs Local responsiveness”. This intends to examine two perspectives of “Standardisation Vs Localisation”. The application of this view to HE context would assess the importance of global convergence versus international diversity. The meaning of diversity here is localisation of the content of delivery. It should ultimately answer the question that: How much should a foreign HEI operating in a country, localise the content of its teaching material and also research activities?

Malaysia has been chosen as a country where witnessed a considerable boom in higher education. There are four UK and Australian universities which are having their offshore campuses in Malaysia. These are selected for a case study.

Balanced score cards will be utilised to assess and measure key performance indicators.

The specification of the research would be: To appraise the role of localisation policy and resource leverage approach in cross-border higher education at the organisational level.

The outcome of this research is expected to be useful for policy makers in HEIs which are crossing borders.

Having the experience of studying and teaching in both public and private universities in different countries has enabled the author to look at forthcoming challenges more realistically.

The type of the research would be inductive and the research strategy seems to be closer to exploratory study and case study with a critical view of the literature and utilisation of comparison-based qualitative analysis, accompanied by quantitative analysis to some extent.


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