International Student Enrollment from BRICs: Why Brazil and Russia are showing counter-trend to India and China?

A decade back, Goldman Sachs report coined the termed BRICs–Brazil, Russia, China and India. It predicted that “…over the next 10 years, the weight of the BRICs and especially China in world GDP will grow.” The predictions seem right not only in terms of GDP but also something completely unrelated i.e. international student enrollment. China and India are dominant in terms of international student enrollment and contributed nearly 84% ( 146,850/175,410) of all international enrollment growth in the US between 2000/01 and 2010/11.
However, it is surprising to note the counter-trend with Brazil and Russia. The number of international students from Brazil have remained stagnant (-1%) and it declined steeply for Russia (-33%). What explains this counter-trend for Brazil and Russia as compared to India and China?
International student mobility is a complex interplay of many push and pull variables. One such very important variable is advancement opportunities at home which makes going abroad less attractive. This is where Russia and Brazil seem to score well as compared to China and India. Based on Gross National Incomes (PPP$), Russia and Brazil have a much higher standard of living as compared to China and India and hence they are less “pushed” to consider studying abroad. China and India are lagging behind in terms of ¬†overall quality of life and hence they will continue to see more students going abroad in search of better prospects.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha


  1. Interesting but as international students are academic consumers who increasingly 'country shop' I think you'd need to compare numbers going to the UK and to Australia too. As someone who started the UK's international student recruitment campaign in Brazil and helped do so from Russia, I wonder if the slight reduction for Brazil is due to competition from other destinations? Re Russia, it is largely a single product economy {oil & gas} with real economic/forex uncertainty and political instability perhaps affecting families' ability to finance overseas studies. China and India have had booming growth for over a decade and unmet/vast demand for HE that can't be met at home.

  2. hi
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  3. Tom Walsh is right on. US is not the top destination for Russian students because of the economic realities, as well as the attractiveness of the UK and other European programs. Same can be said for Brazil though for different – primarily cultural – reasons.

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