The Pursuit of Transnational Capital: Constructing and Utilizing International Cooperative Education Programs

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Wesner, Elizabeth, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Hoffman, Diane, Cu-Leadshp Fndns & Pol Studies, University of Virginia

This dissertation explores how the capital of global education is constructed and appropriated at different levels towards local and individual purposes by vested parties in a joint Chinese-American cooperative degree program based in China. I use qualitative analysis as the methodological orientation, because my goal is to examine the emic beliefs, knowledge, and practices concerning the use and appropriation of global education and transnational capital in China. Data in this dissertation come from two semesters of qualitative field observations in a second-tier university in northern China, as well as a brief comparative visit to its partnered university in the U.S. In China, I conducted participant observations of the program’s regular courses, career recruitment events, off-site field trips, and special cultural exhibitions and performances. I also conducted participant interviews with the program’s administrators, faculty instructors, and university student members.

By analyzing the actions and interactions of the Chinese faculty and students in this particular China-based joint cooperative degree program, I examine how vested parties from the Chinese and American sides construct, negotiate and utilize the dual-cultural environment to their competitive advantage. Rooted in the Chinese government’s push to develop “World-Class Universities,” the joint Sino-Foreign cooperative program is an alternative means to producing both globally competitive Chinese universities, and globally competent Chinese graduates. In turn, this kind of program provides an alternative means to cultivate symbolic, economic and transnational capital. It fosters networks, affiliations and skills that transcend national boundaries, without having to cross them physically. Cultivating this kind of transnational capital also provides a way for students to overcome barriers that would otherwise hinder their success.

My study fills a significant gap in the literature on diversifying paths in globalized education. It provides a more authentic look at what a typical Chinese university is like, and an alternative to the dominant narrative that globalization and the acquisition of global capital must follow Western paradigms and produce students with Western values. It also adds to the literature by providing new insight on a growing phenomenon of compensatory economic practices and transnational capital used by the exploding Chinese middle-class to compete in the global education arena.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
China, Chinese Education, Higher Education, Global Education, Educational Cooperation
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