This paper explores the dynamics between globalization and local culture in analyzing how higher education (HE) has expanded in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) through internationalization. It contends that HE expands through internationalization in part because these Arab Gulf states use higher education institutions (HEIs) to legitimate themselves and gain prominence as internationally competitive societies in a globalized world. At the same time, however, these Arab Gulf states face push back from their more conservative, traditional constituents who criticize the state for “Westernizing” education. Hence, these states simultaneously pursue anti-liberal practices in public HEIs to manage state–society relations, enabling them to maintain both national and global legitimacy. This effort to balance what appears to be two competing interests creates a “dual higher education system.”

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