Upcoming session at RGS-IBG 2022 in Newcastle: Geographies of TNE and the Knowledge-based Economy

Join us at our session at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2022. The session will be run in a hybrid format to enable both remote and in-person participation in Newcastle.

Convenors: Marc Schulze, Tim Rottleb (Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space) and Michael Hoyler (Loughborough University)

Higher education institutions are critical examples through which broader restructurings of economic geographies can be understood (Thiem, 2009). Following wider economic and social trends, higher education has seen a surge in globalisation since the 1990s, for example through the expansion of universities’ offshore operations, growing numbers of internationally mobile students and the proliferation of competitive global university rankings impacting institutional strategies. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the fragilities of higher education institutions as transnational economic actors, including significant financial impacts from disruptions to established patterns of academic mobility and other pandemic challenges to learning, teaching and research.

Economic geographical analyses have demonstrated that the relation of higher education and the (imagined) knowledge-based economy is ambiguous and charged with tensions. Geographers have taken a closer look at the multiple, at times contradictory, roles of higher education and universities: as providers of a qualified workforce and as an increasingly commercialised economic sector; as enabler of circulation and containment of skilled labour and hegemonically valorised forms of knowledge; and as both transnationally operating drivers of globalisation and contributors to state-driven political projects at various scales (cf. Jöns & Hoyler, 2013; Harrison et al., 2016; Addie, 2019; Kleibert et al., 2021; Schulze & Kleibert, 2021; Cheng and Koh, 2022; Rottleb & Kleibert, 2022).

In the session, we will hear empirical and/or theoretical contributions which explore this ambiguous relationship between higher education and the knowledge-based economy, as well as the spaces produced by it. We will engage with topics such as (but not limited to):

  • Physical spaces produced by and/or for transnational higher education
  • Global power asymmetries in transnationalising higher education
  • Mobilities as well as immobilities of people and knowledge in higher education
  • Transnational business strategies of higher education providers
  • Intertwined engagements of economic and non-economic actors in higher education provision
  • Processes of marketisation and internationalisation within higher education systems
  • Connections between the processes of transnationalising higher education and other aspects of globalisation, such as financialisation, geopolitics or labour migration
  • Developmental strategies by governments harnessing transnational higher education
  • Urban and regional constellations in transnational higher education
  • The role of philanthropy in fostering transnational higher education


Addie J-PD (2019) Urban(izing) university strategic planning: an analysis of London and New York City. Urban Affairs Review 55, 1612–1645.

Cheng Y and Koh SY (2022) The ‘soft infrastructure’ of the Belt and Road Initiative: Imaginaries, affinities and subjectivities in Chinese transnational education. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography. https://doi.org/10.1111/sjtg.12420

Harrison J, Smith DP and Kinton C (2016) New institutional geographies of higher education: The rise of transregional university alliances. Environment and Planning A 48(5), 910-936.

Jöns H and Hoyler M (2013) Global geographies of higher education: The perspective of world university rankings. Geoforum 46, 45–59.

Kleibert JM, Bobeé A, Rottleb T and Schulze M (2021) Transnational education zones: Towards an urban political economy of ‘education cities’. Urban Studies 58(14), 2845-2862.

Rottleb T and Kleibert JM (2022) Circulation and containment in the knowledge-based economy: Transnational education zones in Dubai and Qatar. Environment and Planning A. https://doi.org/10.1177/0308518X221077105 .

Schulze MP and Kleibert JM (2021) Transnational education for regional economic development? Understanding Malaysia’s and Singapore’s strategic coupling in global higher education. International Journal of Training and Development 25(4), 363-382.

Thiem C (2009) Thinking through education: The geographies of contemporary educational restructuring. Progress in Human Geography 33(2), 154-173.