Internationalization and Differentiation Strategies: The Case of American and European Business Schools
169 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2016
Date Written: December 7, 2015
The field of management has been understudied in terms of qualitative research studies exploring the internationalization and differentiation strategies of business schools (actors). This study addresses these relevant and urgent knowledge gaps due to major changes in the management education landscape, such as global turmoil, consolidation, and a deep legitimacy crisis, exacerbated by the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. The case study method was used to examine field dynamics and the behavior of six actors in three countries between 2012 and 2015 via interviews and field observations, facilitated in my dual capacity of international programs director and part-time faculty at several American (U.S.) and European business schools. The study is based on two levels of analysis: meso (between macro and micro) to understand the community of business schools and micro (to understand actor strategies). It is designed to answer this main research question: what are the strategies underlying the internationalization and the differentiation of business schools? I combined neo-institutionalism, international business, and strategic management theoretical frameworks to gain a deep understanding of the literature and the practice in relation to this main research question.
Whereas this thesis is the product of my individual research (four papers) as an embedded researcher, it has been supervised by two rigorous co-authors since 2012. Therefore, my writing style alternates between “I” and “we” in respect of co-authorship. Our main findings indicate that the Uppsala internationalization model should be extended to address these tensions: internationalization vs. globalization, dimensions of audiences, and the risks associated with internationalization pathways. We also found that trust- and reputation-building mechanisms (rankings and accreditations) have become insufficient differentiators due to global mimicry. We contribute to higher education management approaches with a new differentiation strategy beyond rankings and accreditations to show scholars and practitioners that authenticity is a way to regain credibility and legitimacy with stakeholders. Due to the inherent limitations of the case study method, our findings are not generalizable. However, we believe that they are applicable to knowledge-intensive firms and professional service firms.
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