Date Available


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Year of Publication


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. Beth Goldstein

Second Advisor

Dr. Jeffrey Bieber


This case study uses post-colonial and dependency theoretical lenses to investigate the forces influencing policy, procedures, and participation in international activity in the post-colonial African university environment of Kenya’s first national public university—the University of Nairobi (UoN). The research addresses (1) the approaches and strategies adopted by UoN to engage in international activity; (2) the changes that have taken place over time in international activity engagement at UoN since the attainment of political independence by the Republic of Kenya; and (3) the rationales driving participation in international activity. This investigation included library research, document analysis, multiple campus visits, and 20 formal interviews with the faculty and administrators of the University of Nairobi, Kenya.

I argue that even though the University of Nairobi now exhibits some degree of agency in her international engagement as an independent post-colonial African University, limitations to this agency are evident given her colonial genesis as a university college linked to the University of London. Despite the fact that greater control has been realized in curricula issues, institutional level governance, income generating projects, and joint research collaboration and international partnerships, the road to independence in international engagement in a post-colonial university environment is still under construction. The University of Nairobi faces many challenges in her efforts to find a place in the global community of higher education. These challenges include, but are not limited to, lack of resources for human capacity building, shortage of faculty and staff, heavy teaching load, bureaucracy, loss of faculty control in setting their research agendas, commercialization of higher education, intellectual property rights violations, and brain drain. Rationales driving internationalization at the University of Nairobi are a consequence of contextual factors, some of which are external to the university and others internal and individual in nature. For example, whereas the academic rationales for participation, including research outlet, professional development, and networking are commonly cited as key motivators for international engagement, equally powerful economic motivators drive participation.

I conclude this investigation by questioning the assumption that there can be balanced interdependence between marginalized African institutions of higher education (IHEs) and the developed world, as internationalization proponents suggest, arguing that these institutions are yet to break away from the colonial mold that led to their creation.

KEYWORDS: African Higher Education, Internationalization, Post-colonialism, Dependency, Agency