INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATIVE VENTURES BETWEEN HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS. A BRITISH-RUSSIAN CASE STUDY.
London Metropolitan University
London Metropolitan University
This paper provides a case study analysis of an ongoing collaborative venture between a British and a Russian Higher Education (HE) institution. The paper provides evidence of how knowledge transfer, knowledge migration and, to some extent, management learning, have been achieved in the partnership under study through trust, commitment, forbearance, diplomacy and other soft communication skills. It offers an alternative perspective to the findings of Gilbert and Gorlenko (1999) who explain how a similar partnership foundered.
Key words: partnership management skills, knowledge transfer
Gilbert and Gorlenko (1999) provide a fascinating case study insight into a British-Russian international collaborative venture (ICV) aimed at achieving a British validated Master of Business Administration (MBA) delivered in Moscow by Russians. They describe how the partnership started in 1992 with a certain ‘mutual euphoria’, but changed over the years to a much ‘colder realism’ about importing UK courses and associated quality assurance procedures. They explain how major issues such as language of delivery, assessment styles and procedures were not resolved and resulted in mutual misunderstanding, resentment and polarisation of views. After some years, although progress had been made on a postgraduate diploma, the full MBA was still not validated, the alliance foundered, and the ‘brave’ experiment failed. With much regret on both sides, the Wolverhampton business school withdrew. Drawing upon their experiences they suggest there are generic problems of establishing UK validated awards in Russian HE institutions. The approach entails a product-oriented transplant of a Western academic programme, which brings in its train the rigours of a set of quality assurance procedures and practices which is alien to the Eastern partner. In such a situation, because the locus of control lies with the Western party, the onus of learning and adjustment is on the eastern partner with knowledge transfer overwhelmingly in an easterly direction. Because the power relationship is unbalanced in favour of the West, it is difficult for either party to experience organisational learning. They argue that any future project of this type should build in processes for both staff development and organisational learning from the outset. They conclude that ‘in hindsight it is evident that both partners placed too much emphasis on the product of the collaboration, rather than the process of mutual learning needed to achieve it. When everyone is committed to a single pre-ordained outcome (validation of a single course), there is a tendency to try to gloss over, or at least minimise, differences in outlook and ways of working which are bound to surface sooner or later.’(p.341). However they are silent on how the partners tried to work through the problems that were faced. They say nothing about the type of skills and range of roles that might be needed to manage an ICV. This paper provides a case study analysis of another British-Russian collaborative venture that started in 1997 and was aimed in the first instance at Russian students obtaining a UK MBA on top of their Russian MBA. In some respects there is a remarkable commonality between the institutions involved and issues arising in this partnership and that described by Gilbert and Gorlenko. Both sets of partners were subject to the same pressures of ‘institutional isomorphism’ (DiMaggio and Powell 1983), handling for example common quality regulations. However in this case study, validation was achieved, student numbers are growing and new courses are coming on stream. Through...
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