Research Output

The Power of Relationships: Making Transnational Collaborations Work

This presentation is based on an empirical research project which examined the lived experience of local academics in transnational partnerships. It explored the participants’ experience of working within the competing realities of their cultural universe, the development of sense-making ‘hybrid’ identities, and the implications for their practice. The research led to the creation of a typology which reflects the opportunities for individual agency in respect of the participants’ relationships with institutions, colleagues and students. The presentation focuses on this typology and its implications for transnational education.
Theoretical context
The research adopted a social constructivist approach, recognising that the data offered subjective perspectives (Denzin and Lincoln, 2011). Review of the literature identified the themes of culture, identity and practice, which established the scope of the research. I argue that the cultural dimension which an individual accesses informs his or her identity formation (Kreber, 2010). This then forms the resources which shape practice. In this context, practice is interpreted as behaviour that has become the norm within the practitioner community (Saunders et al, 2011). The research explores the ways in which the participants adapt their practice to accommodate the competing elements of their cultural universe (Singer, 1998).
Volunteers were invited from an Indian college working in partnership with a UK university. Thirteen participants came forward, all of whom had experience of working in transnational partnerships. Primary data were generated through email discussion, dialogic face-to-face interviews and the selection of representational artefacts. These methods resulted in a rich and extensive data set, which was analysed thematically.
The data demonstrated that the cultural universe of local academics is a complex one, which both defines and constrains their practice. A strong theme which developed was the role of relationships in influencing behaviours within this environment, and this led to the creation of a typology of relationships: didactic, externally-prescribed, enabling and self-prescribed. These were categorised by locus of power and level of individual agency.
The typology illustrates that participants’ relationships at an organisational level are characterised by powerlessness, with little scope for individual agency. Once the relationships become personal, the participants are able to make choices and adapt their practices. Understanding the influence of the different relationships on the lived experience of the in-country academic is essential to the development of a true transnational partnership of equals.

  • Type:

    Conference Paper (unpublished)

  • Date:

    06 December 2016

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    LB2300 Higher Education

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    378 Higher education

  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


McLatchie, J. (2016, December). The Power of Relationships: Making Transnational Collaborations Work. Paper presented at SRHE Newer and Early Career Researchers Conference 2016, Cardiff, UK



Cultural capital, social capital, empirical research, transnational partnerships, identity, academic practice,

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