Purpose: This article discusses the opportunities presented by the globalization of education and the role of knowledge management in successful global expansion. It seeks to explain why the tacit dimensions of the knowledge transferred during international education provision makes it difficult to provide educational services in offshore campuses, absent the transfer of people. Design/methodology/approach: The article draws on literature in the discipline of international business to explain why internationalizing universities need to consider the role of knowledge transfer as a strategic imperative. As this is a conceptual article, arguments are built on insights from extant theoretical and empirical work. Findings: Based on the analysis of a diverse body of academic literature in the areas of international business, knowledge management and education theory, this article demonstrates the role of foreign assignments in the transfer of tacit knowledge in universities with offshore campuses. Research limitations/implications: The implications of the proposition raised in this article are presented with a focus on how they affirm the need for foreign assignments for effective knowledge management in internationalizing universities. Those implications include the need to use assignments to deliver courses offshore and to create face-to-face interactions with academics at partner universities. Originality/value: Drawing on a diverse body of academic literature, this article provides theoretical and practical insights into how assignments can be utilized in international educational management, international educational delivery, and the creation of an environment in which knowledge resources can be utilized on an international basis.