Operating a U.S. University in China: Identifying Challenges Within a Joint Venture.

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Patricia A. Watkins


Louis J. Agnese


Richard A. Gray


Bobbye G. Fry


This qualitative, ethnographic study explored the perceptions of differences in the business and educational paradigms of the U.S. and China by selecting and interviewing participants from three classifications in a U.S. and Sino (Chinese) joint venture called the JVC. The group classifications were organized into the following: administrators, faculty, and students. The objective was to gain an understanding of perceptions from varying points of view. By examining the cultural factors that influenced the various experiences and decision-making processes, major challenges and themes emerged throughout the interviews. The purpose of this study was to identify perceived challenges of stakeholders in a U.S. university in China operating within a joint venture business relationship and to offer recommendations for future ventures. Once all interviews were transcribed, recurring themes were identified and coded to establish the major challenges. Major challenges identified were: (a) Academic, (b) Administrative, (c) Logistical, (d) Cultural, and (e) Communication. Themes identified were: (a) adjustment; (b) conceptual differences; (c) relationships; (d) personal commitment; (e) teaching and learning styles; (f) trust; (g) access to resources; (h) language; (i) respect for culture; (j) physical environment; (k) training; (1) recruiting; (m) costs; and (n) program rigor. Recommendations and conclusions stress that top-level administrators in this and similar ventures should use this study, and future research, to identify and predict likely points of negotiation based on the major challenges and themes identified. Additional studies of this nature would offer a more comprehensive understanding of major challenges, making the collective findings more applicable and accurate in a broader sense. More research is needed to develop a tool that would serve as an effective predictor of major challenges in this kind of joint venture relationship. Understanding the business, education, and cultural distinctions are critical for a successful outcome, especially when two cultures with such contrasting communication and management styles are involved.

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