Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Rezai-Rashti, Goli

2nd Supervisor

Martino, Wayne

Joint Supervisor


This study provides a deeper knowledge and understanding about the ways in which multiple local and global discourses shape the policies that emphasize the building of world-class universities in China. As such, it examines the influence of neoliberal forces of globalization on institutional and individual responses to these policies, with attention to their transformational impact on the subjectivities of the faculty members. This qualitative case study (Creswell, 2009; Stake, 2005; Thomas, 2011a) was informed by an engagement with a number of interrelated and complementary critical social theories, namely, a Foucauldian analytical framework (Foucault, 1980a, 1980b, 1987, 1993), critical policy theories (Ball, 1994, 2005; Ball, Maguire & Braun, 2012; Rizvi & Lingard, 2010) and globalization studies (Rizvi, 2008, 2014; Rizvi & Lingard, 2006; Burawoy, 2000). In-depth interviews were conducted with fifteen faculty members from a high-ranking university in a less developed province in China, and data were analyzed through drawing upon the relevant national and institutional policies, examining China’ specific historical and cultural realities, and engaging with the above-mentioned critical theoretical framework. This study has found that the quest for world-class universities in China is consistent with the logics of neoliberal globalization as manifested through a discourse that values efficiency, deliverability and performance, and encourages competition, excellence and high rates of return. It provides insights into the terms and enactment of various educational and economic policies in China that are driven by such a neoliberal rationality, and how this rationality was negotiated within a particular local context, entered into the university system to influence governance of higher education, as well as gradually penetrated the minds of academics to shape their subjectivities. This study fills an empirical gap by examining, from a critical lens, the complicated process of construction of academic subjects in relation to specific policy enactment. It provides theoretical possibilities for future critical policy studies and studies on neoliberal globalization. It also identifies significant issues emerging from China’s current pursuit of WCUs, particularly with regards to raising critical awareness and reconsideration of the roles of faculty members and the question of balancing quality and equity in the process of policy enactment.