This paper explores some dilemmas, ambiguities and contradictions of higher education’s globalization(s) through the critical frame of postcolonial theory. A postcolonial reading reads contemporary narratives of globalization with the commitment to reconsider the impact of the colonial encounter (Crossley & Tikly, 2004: 148). The postcolonial frame challenges reified, abstract and utopian claims about higher education and the global ‘knowledge economy’ on historical and spatial grounds (Matus and Tarburt 2009). A postcolonial reading of higher education as a global project highlights issues of privilege, benevolence and complicity in an emerging hierarchical and managerialist global governmentality. The discussion critically interrogates the ways in which derivative narratives of globalization operationalize forms of internal or ‘self-colonization’. As discourses of education progress proceed from national to global forms, the ‘cunning of reason’ (Chatterjee, 1986) silences alternative and critical subjectivities as critique itself is enfolded into an episteme of objectification, transparent commodification and competitive global capitalism (Boltanski & Chiapello, 2005). The paper considers contemporary narratives of globalization in four Irish and Canadian universities (Khoo, forthcoming). For some commentators, a postcolonial perspective seeks to “renarrativize the globalization story”, placing peripheralized postcolonial countries at the centre of the narrative, and drawing on critical political economy to highlight social inequalities and resistance to Western global hegemony (Tikly, 2001:152). However, the scripts for globalizing higher education enact and reproduce privilege, embedded in established hierarchies of excellence, benevolence, developmentalism and whiteness. The Irish and Canadian cases reveal the globalization of higher education to contain many entangled and contradictory logics, motivations and drivers, raising inescapable questions about privilege, hybridity, ‘self-colonization’ and complicity. Irish and Canadian higher education institutions are embedded in mostly-white and “developed” positions in the global hierarchy. They appeal to contradictory claims of inferiority and superiority, while making specific national claims to embody benevolent expressions of global citizenship. The two cases compel us to ask what the ‘post’ in postcolonial means for higher education – do we understand it as an autonomous or derivative logic, a hegemonic and colonizing or marginalized and decolonizing force? The discussion moves on to look at the transformative and solidaristic potential of critical literacy (Andreotti 2007) and participatory learning and action research (Kane, E., Bruce, L. & O’Reilly de Brun 1998) as strategies that can be employed within higher education to engage with the colonial present (Gregory, 2004). These approaches provide postcolonial strategies for ‘unlearning privilege’ (Kapoor 2004) and propose possibilities for dialogical encounter and mutually transformative learning. The discussion concludes by putting the case for, as well as considering the limitations and challenges to, these potentially transformative approaches to produce substantively different narratives and outcomes which can de-globalize and re-globalize higher education in more reflexive and ethical directions.