W9: Brazil

As seen in this week’s readings, higher education systems across the world take many forms and some are very different from our own. I found the reading about the BRIC universities and how each country has shaped their higher education systems very fascinating because it shows how higher education can exist in many forms and shapes. Brazil was the most interesting because I thought it was the most unique compared to the United States and the other two countries. The section on Brazil emphasized how the private for-profit institutions are dominating the higher education market, as opposed to the public institutions which really dominate US higher education. As the author mentions Brazil has a very small public higher education sector compared to its private sector. Private institutions educate almost three fourths of the undergraduate population in Brazil, and many of them are for-profit organizations that have set up campuses around the country. Public institutions in Brazil are more research oriented than instruction oriented, therefore most of the funding and faculty are directed towards research projects rather than instructing undergraduate and graduate students. As result, public institutions take in fewer students which make them highly selective institutions. On the other hand, the growing number of private institutions essentially does not have any admissions controls because there are more seats than students and admits everyone.

One of the major issues that Brazil is facing is how to improve quality in these private institutions that essentially admits everyone who applies and is not pressured to improve their quality. I find the state of Brazil’s higher education very intriguing because it is considered an emerging country and economic force (not as of recently), but it is struggling with capacity and quality issues. US schools that are looking to enter Brazil’s market should be aware of these issues and needs in order to work out partnerships that will benefit both parties. Mutual understanding of the partner or the host country’s culture is imperative in the success of a partnership or a branch campus, and it should be something that is achieved before agreements are struck.

W9-Melissa Fernandez

Central ministries for education in other countries have allowed higher education institutions to run effectively and united. Most countries have instated a department or central ministry for their higher education institutions to become a part of so they all must follow the same rules and regulation allowing for each institution to be held to the same standards. I was surprised to find out that China did not start with one central ministry and was originally multiple ministries. Though the government was in charge of funding and policies they still allowed they public and private intitutions to have a say on some internal regulations and quotas they would like to meet. I feel ministries like this make a difference in the function of higher education institutions because it is centralized with participation from all institutions. In India, it seems as though university examinations play a large role in the way an institution functions. There are private and public colleges but all must be part of a university who will grant a degree for them. Unaided private colleges were interviewed in this reading and surprisingly the faculty were teaching the bare minmum so they could focus on their students passing the exams. Most time private colleges are able to be flexible in what they are teaching but in this system, the trustees have a large amount of control over the autonomy of disciplines. On the contrary, Russia has a long history of allowing higher education be centralized then decentralized. In 1993 Law on Education allowed for institutions to self-govern and decentralize with introductions of private institutions. In 2000 this changed when Putin wished to centralize the autonomy and finances. Many administrators from institutions were also angered by the fact that financial support could only come from federal and not local governments. Local governments were willing to include higher education in their financial planning but the regulations only allowed federal. This is more for control than anything else as the central ministry in Moscow wanted the final say. Lastly, Brazil has between 65-70% of their students enrolled in private institutions, which is different than most countries. Most of these private institutions run like business making the autonomy contolled by faculty low in the academic sector. Brazil faces the conflict where they are a low income society but the majority of the college going students attend private schools so cost and budgeting play a major role in higher education. Faculty take a lot of responsibility by teaching undergraduate and graduate course work. The research showed that only 2% of faculty only taught graduate course work.

W9: The Future of BRIC Universities

When I enrolled in our class, I thought the class would be more of a comparative look at higher education institutions by country, rather than a broader theme of internationalization. While I think internationalization is very interesting and is extremely important for higher education professionals to study, I’m glad that we had an option to read more about the history and the day-to-day operating of universities abroad in Carnoy’s “BRIC Universities as Institutions in the Process of Change”.

I’ve always been interested in the BRIC countries and why (and how!) they’ve been lumped together. The main reason is that they are growing economies that have become increasingly important in the overall global economy. Other than that, though, they have very little in common culturally, politically, or, as we saw in the reading, educationally.

The theme in the reading that I was most interested in was how each country is responding to increased demands from a growing number of students — or, in the case of Russia, a decrease in demand. In the case of India, China, and Brazil, their expanding economies have created a large middle class that is seeking greater higher educational opportunities. Thus, the challenge for these countries in the last few decades has been to meet the increased demand while maintaining quality. In the case of China, India, and Russia, it seems like the larger emphasis has been on accessibility rather than quality. This is not to say that these countries are not concerned about quality — their public research universities are still highly esteemed and only reserved for their very top students — but right now they seem to be more focused on pumping more and more students through the semester by any means necessary. This is not unlike the immediate postwar expansion of HEIs in the U.S. and the rise of community colleges in the 1950s-1970s.

Another theme from the reading is the organization and hierarchy of different types of universities. The main thing that stuck out to me was the large proportion of private, for-profit universities in Brazil. The target students for these for-profit institutions are generally lower-income students (similar to the U.S.). While I am skeptical about for-profit universities in the United States, it seems to make more sense in Brazil since they are better able to set tuition prices to market demands and are actually the more cost-effective option for cash-strapped students. The reading did not mention this specifically, but I am curious if Brazil has ever considered a U.S. public community-college model to serve these students.

So while these three countries are struggling to keep up with the rising demands for HEIs, Russia is having the opposite problem. “In Russia, mass universities will not be expanding, so their main role is to ‘survive’, adjusting to a host of new realities” (Carnoy, 2013, pp. 177). While the other three countries seem to be adopting a more market-oriented approach to higher education, Russia seems to be going back to a more Soviet-approach (or, at the very least, very much resisting a more market-approach to its higher education system).

This makes sense, given their very recent history. As the reading explains, many of the leaders and faculty in Russian universities were also there during the Soviet Union, when universities were heavily regulated by the state and the main curricular emphasis was on STEM disciplines to try to get an advantage in technology and science over the U.S. in the Cold War. While China has made many innovations to its higher education system, it, too, is still a product of its recent history, with the Chinese government still playing a strong role in shaping certain curricular matters (for instance, even graduate students in engineering still study political philosophy with an emphasis on communism), as well as the overtly political appointments of university administrators.

The last area I wanted to discuss was India’s emphasis on affirmative action for its disadvantaged castes. I was pleased to read of the Indian government’s financial investment in groups of people who continue to face extensive discrimination. Unfortunately, I am skeptical how much this will do to really improve conditions for these individuals if they will still face discrimination in other areas of their lives, but at the very least it is encouraging that the government is acknowledging the inequalities and is (at least somewhat) committed to improving things.

As BRIC countries have become increasingly important in global affairs, I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about their higher education systems. While the BRIC countries have one thing in common — they all have rapidly expanding economies — they have vastly different cultural, political, and economic environments, which also impacts their system of higher education. As the countries continue to expand their global influence, it will be interesting to monitor changes and innovations in their higher education systems.