Engaging with arranged marriages: A lesson for transnational higher education

Carrie Amani Annabi, Amanda McStay, Allyson Noble, Maha Sidahmed

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High levels of absenteeism have been observed amongst male students attending two transnational higher education institutions (TNHE) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). One reason offered is an obligation to attend engagement ceremonies. Many ceremonies are linked to arranged marriages. This study contradicts assumptions that suggest higher education reduces arranged marriages, and also highlights that university policies overlook cultural nuances.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 25 male postgraduate students aged between 22 and 45. Content analysis was used to analyse and interpret the data.
Several 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/implications
This research was restricted to male students from two TNHE institutes in the UAE.
Practical implications
This research provides insight for TNHE managers by providing student centric research into cultural reasons that prevent student attendance.
Social implications
TNHE 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.
The article explores the challenges of creating culturally sensitive educational policy and practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284-297
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


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