PurposeHigh levels of absenteeism have been observed amongst male students attending two transnational higher education (TNHE) institutions in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). One reason offered is an obligation to attend engagement ceremonies. Many ceremonies are linked to arranged marriages. The purpose of this paper is to contradict assumptions that suggest that higher education reduces arranged marriages, and to highlight that university policies overlook cultural nuances.Design/methodology/approachSemi-structured interviews were conducted with 25 male postgraduate students aged between 22 and 45. Content analysis was used to analyse and interpret the data.FindingsSeveral interviewees chose to have an arranged marriage and some saw their postgraduate studies as an opportunity to have a better chance of securing a wife. Equally, several students felt that university policies were unsympathetic to cultural obligations.Research limitations/implicationsThis research was restricted to male students from two TNHE institutes in the UAE.Practical implicationsThis research provides insight for TNHE managers by providing student-centric research into cultural reasons that prevent student attendance.Social implicationsTNHE is not fully responsive to familial obligations within collective societies. In consequence, there has been a lack of sympathy within policies regarding students’ requirement to fulfil cultural commitments.Originality/valueThe paper explores the challenges of creating culturally sensitive educational policy and practices.
International Journal of Educational Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Mar 12, 2018
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