Internationalization and the Discursive Shaping of Higher Education Practices: A Case Study from Taiwan


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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  • Thomas Gavin HAYWARD

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Awarding Institution
Award date26 Jun 2015


The internationalization of higher education is a growing trend in Taiwan, both as a specified goal of the government and as a developmental ambition for many local universities. This thesis focuses on local-level decision-making, exploring the autonomy that higher education actors like universities and academic departments have in devising internationalization policy in Taiwan’s current ‘centralized decentralization’ higher education system. The research in this thesis tracks the development of a Taiwanese university dance department’s internationalization initiatives over a four-year period, observing the types of practices that are initiated and probing for the rationale that legitimates their implementation. Employing a combination of Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory (2001) and van Leeuwen’s legitimation theory (2007), the thesis analyzes how actors in the department articulate the value of internationalization practices, and then compares these articulations with articulations that circulate within the local context, the ‘order of discourse’. By uncovering the contingencies and congruencies between these articulations, this research seeks to understand how discursive tension (i.e., conflicting articulations of the value of internationalization) within the context is resolved by actors in the department.
Through the examination of data collected from semi-structured interviews, focus group interviews, observation, and the analysis of documents such as policy speeches, government communiqués and university website texts, the thesis finds that while there is much agreement in the valuation of internationalization practices as articulated by all involved domains, a key conflict has been in the perceived value of dance as a form of art on the one hand versus dance as a commodified form of entertainment as espoused by the cultural and creative industries, and the department’s stance on the issue has made it unique within the academic dance community in Taiwan. Such findings indicate that while the department appears to have had a high degree of procedural autonomy in developing its internationalization practices, discursive pressure from institutional and national domains has been especially influential in developing its actual internationalization practices. The findings of this thesis indicate that the internationalization in Taiwan’s present higher education is a relational and dialectical process, with discursive resources from a variety of domains influencing decisions made in a particular context like a tertiary-institution dance department. It thus usefully augments previous research into Taiwan’s higher education internationalization that has focused mainly on government-level policy making or university responses to it.