This week’s reading BRIC Universities as Institutions in the Process of Change, I personally found very interesting and educating, as I did not know much about the commonalities and differences among BRIC countries, especially when it comes to higher education. Although India gave up a lot of its control to individual institution over the past couple of decades, Brazil, China, and especially Russia are still largely dependent on the state governance to make decisions and provide funding.
What I found most interesting is to read about Higher Education and Institutions in Russia, as I was born in Soviet Union and grew up in Belarus (now an independent country after USSR fell apart) and so this is very close to my heart. As to my knowledge the higher education systems in Russian and Belarus are not much different, the state has most of the control over curriculum, faculty, research, and funding. Despite the recent growth in private institutions that rely on tuition money to operate, as mentioned in the report, it is still largely funded by the state, pushing “elite” private institutions to attract international students and become world known, while pushing public institutions out of business. It is interesting that the reading mentions The 1993 Law on Education that “legitimized the decentralization and autonomy, self-governance, and devolution of authority, and legalized the introduction of private and nongovernmental higher education institutions” (P. 160). What was not mentioned is how highly corrupted the Russian government and so is higher education system in this country. Although the report states that most of the institutions, especially private have control over choosing their faculty and administrators, it is still highly controlled by officials with top positions and getting a job often depends on who you know who has an ability to hire. Although this might not be obvious or difficult to prove in the report, the highly corrupted culture of former USSR still exists in those countries and spreads to majority of the “industries”, including higher ed. In addition to hiring and funding corruption, admissions in Russian institutions mainly depend on “knowing people” and ability to pay someone off, despite your admission exam results.
One of the main conclusions about the BRIC institutions is that most of them are highly dependent on state funding, which gives the government more control over the decisions individual institutions make. It seems that the economists predict that BRIC countries will step up and take top ten spots in the world’s largest economies by 2050 (which China being #1), which to me seems to be a little overly optimistic looking at it from today’s standpoint. If that, in fact, will be true, the Higher Education systems and individual Institutions will have to see tremendous amount of change in the next 30 years, to be able to step out of the current state control and become more independent and risk takers, which are willing to take curriculum and internationalization in their own hands. BRIC countries won’t be able to grow as fast as predicted if the state continues to have such control on higher ed system and individual institutions.