“What can I offer America?” A postcolonial analysis of faculty motivations and perceptions in North-South university partnerships

Yeukai Angela Mlambo, Aryn Baxter


International university partnerships are a prevalent internationalization strategy for both North American and African higher education institutions, yet the predominance of discourses that reflect the inequities of the global knowledge economy among participants perpetuate the very challenges that they are designed to address. Using a postcolonial framework, this study provides a critical analysis of qualitative interviews conducted with faculty members from one West African and one U.S. university participating in an international higher education partnership. The paper examines the motivations and perceived benefits of the partnership among participants at both institutions. It argues that the history of inequitable relationships perpetuated by globalization continues to shape understandings and pose challenges to achieving mutuality in North-South university partnerships. Findings show, for both institutions, motivations for partnership participation are based on the expectations and anticipated benefits to their institution as well as an alignment with the individual’s personal goals and objectives. Furthermore, perceptions of power imbalances between participants at the two institutions are evident. Despite the partnership’s intent for mutuality and reciprocity, the narratives of both West African and U.S. participants reinforce inequitable hierarchies. However, they also highlight opportunities for working toward greater mutuality and intercultural learning through North-South partnerships. Recommendations for cultivating reciprocity in North-South university partnerships are provided.


Higher education internationalization, North-South partnerships, postcolonial approaches

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.32865/fire20184319


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