What higher education policies in BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are working and not working in achieving access goals? The open access Special Issue of the Journal Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning
aims to answer this central question.
The co-editors– Erich Dietrich, Teboho Moja and Loni Bordoloi Pazich–note that “This special issue focuses on access policies to higher education in the BRICS countries with scholars from each country contributing an analysis of what is working and what is not, as well as a critical examination of emerging issues in the implementation of access policies aimed at addressing equity issues and increasing participation rates in higher education. This country-by country case-study approach illuminates the contextual challenges of developing equitable policies for access to higher education. In each country, the lines of inequality differ: race, socioeconomic status, caste, ethnic group affiliation, gender, rural versus cosmopolitan status, and inherited privilege. And yet, there is a remarkable unity in the fact that addressing these inequalities has become a top priority for each country.”
“The central argument of the authors is that state is an important influencer in bringing large scale change in higher education and by analyzing the transformation of higher education in BRIC countries from the lens of nation-state, we would gain a deeper understanding of the long-term impact on the societies’ social and economic development. In specific, they find that the higher education systems in BRIC countries have been undergoing an increasing differentiation between mass and elite universities. Moreover, there is increasing shift of cost to students through tuition fees.
The book is unique on at least two counts. First, it uses an empirical and comparative approach to analyze the transformation of higher education systems in developing economies. It attempts to bring together seemingly complex data through primary sources and wherever data is unavailable collecting it through fieldwork. This is especially commendable as data availability in not only inconsistent it is unavailable in many cases, making it a challenging project. This enhances the value of the outcomes as one of the most comprehensive compilation of data on many aspects of engineering education in BRIC countries.
Second, the authors look into expansion from the lens of how state acts as an important influencer in achieving goals as compared to universities as a locus of change. This includes a detailed discussion on interaction between state and universities which is managed through two primary instruments. First, the degree of autonomy universities are granted by state and second, financing incentives that provide resources to universities and help them in improving quality. The policies of financing of higher education becomes even more contrasting when one learns about the growth of private higher education in countries like India and Brazil as compared to quest for “world-class” universities in countries like China and Russia. And of course, state is an influential actor in ensuring equitable expansion. The author’s treatment of politically and socially complex topics like access and its relationship with affirmative action, especially in Brazil and India are very insightful.”