In this article, we build on postcolonial studies and discourse analytical research exploring how the ‘world-class’ discourse as an ideology and a fantasy structures neocolonial relations in international branch campuses. We empirically examine how international branch campuses reproduce the fantasy of being so-called world-class operators and how the onsite faculty members identify with or resist this world-class fantasy through mimicry. Our research material originates from fieldwork conducted in business-school international branch campuses operating in the United Arab Emirates. Our findings show the ambivalent nature of mimicry towards the world-class fantasy to include both compliance and resistance. Our contributions are addressed to postcolonial management studies by discussing the ambivalent nature of mimicry in international branch campuses and the significance of grandiose constructions in organizations for neocolonial relations. © The Author(s) 2018.