GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
Creating Global-Ready Graduates? The Impacts of Western-Style Higher Education on Intercultural Effectiveness and Business Communication in the GCC
Paper Proposal Text :
As part of their national development plans, the Gulf Cooperation Council countries have focused heavily in recent years on enhancing the region's higher education offerings. A common strategy has been to increase the number of Western-affiliated universities. However, due to their relatively recent entrance into the region, academic research into the various impacts of these universities—on both educational outcomes and cultural aptitudes—remains limited. This paper proposes a project designed to assess the key influences of "Western-style" education in Kuwait (and possibly the wider GCC) on the intercultural awareness and cross-cultural communication patterns exhibited by undergraduate and graduate business students at various stages of their education. Specifically, the study attempts to identify the development of students' intercultural effectiveness, as well as their cross-cultural communication patterns that are increasingly relevant to the business and educational environments in Kuwait and the global marketplace.

The study is divided into three phases, each with its own goals and data collection instruments designed to provide a triangulated measurement of the central concepts under review. Phase One analyzes written materials from Arabic and English bilingual, business school students to identify the competitive features of their communication patterns across time. Of particular interest are differences in the patterns of "context" exhibited by participants in relation to their demographic, educational, and other characteristics. Although it has been hypothesized that Kuwaiti culture broadly utilizes a "high-context" communication style, there is no empirical data to confirm this hypothesis. In addition, this research seeks to examine the existing latitude of cultural variance across differing populations within a given country—an important element often overlooked in the common cross-national analyses of intercultural communication patterns. Thus, Phase One attempts to bridge such gaps, as well as provide a point of contrast for the findings of the additional two phases. July 2014 is the expected completion date for this phase.

Phase Two of the study assesses the intercultural effectiveness of Kuwaiti business students (undergraduate and graduate) by means of an internationally-validated data collection instrument called the Intercultural Effectiveness Scale (IES). The survey will be administered (in Arabic and English) at both the initial and final stages of students' business education across multiple universities. The aim is to provide evidence for universities' business programs effectiveness in creating global-ready graduates. The authors are also interested in gauging the interest of other GCC-based universities participating in this GRM workshop to administer this survey in their countries to provide a more robust data set and allow for broader comparative analyses and collaboration across nations. Spring of the 2014-2015 academic year is the target for data collection in this phase.

Phase Three will provide insight into the question of "why" specific patterns emerged from the previous two phases through the use of in-depth, semi-structured interviews among Kuwaiti students, who are likely to comprise the largest group of respondents. These interviews will enable participants to actively reflect on their own cultural behaviors and intercultural aptitudes, as well as their perception of these traits in others. The combined data from all three phases cover both deductive and inductive approaches, quantitative and qualitative methodologies, and branch differing disciplines and national interests.

It is the authors' intent to present this research design at the GRM in order to discuss the findings from Phase One, solicit feedback on the design of Phases Two and Three, and identify possible collaborating universities for the survey administration and analysis. The GRM provides a unique forum for these goals since it brings together some of the most important stakeholders for such a project. If accepted for participation, the paper describing Phase One will be ready by the May 31 deadline, with the remainder of the study (Phases Two and Three) to take place after the GRM.

This research not only addresses gaps in the educational, intercultural, and regional literature, but also has policy and educational-assessment implications. It seeks to provide a baseline understanding of the capacity-building efficacy of Western models of higher education in the Gulf, as well as a collaborative model for on-going assessments. Since a major goal of these institutions is to provide "a critical mass of locally trained and high quality students, faculty, innovators and entrepreneurs" to sustain science, technology, and innovation (STI) goals, then their ability to successfully prepare students with the requisite intercultural skills is certainly a major factor for success.

Both authors work at the Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST) in Kuwait, which is itself an institution based on an American-model university with the aim of fostering STI goals in the country. It is the first private university in Kuwait and has a number of strategic international partnerships, including a pending Engineering College in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. Furthermore, the lead presenter has served in the university administration as an advisor to the Vice President of Academic Services and Interim Dean of Student Affairs, as well as his current role as the Chair of the Mass Communication Department, which is among the university's largest majors (approximately 500 students). The authors' combined experience as educators, administrators, and researchers in Kuwait can further contribute to what will certainly be a fruitful exchange among diverse scholars who share an interest in one of the region's most important set of institutions.