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Reviewed by:
  • University Expansion in a Changing Global Economy: Triumph of the BRICs? by Martin Carnoy et al.
  • Roberta Malee Bassett
University Expansion in a Changing Global Economy: Triumph of the BRICs?
Martin Carnoy, Prashant Loyalka, Maria Dobryakova, Rafiq Dossani, Isak Froumin, Katherine Kuhns, Jandhyala B.G. Tilak, & Rong Wang.
2013. Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press. 404 pp.
Hardcover ISBN: 9780804786010 ($60.00).
E-book ISBN 9780804786416 ($60.00).

Full Disclosure: I Am a BRIC Skeptic

It is not that these countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) are not extremely important and influential in our time. They are. No question about it. It is the grouping of these countries into an artificially singular entity—the BRICs—that I question. This review, therefore, has this skepticism at its core—fair warning to the reader!

Given my general ambivalence about assessing the BRIC countries as a monolithic agent against which the experiences of others ought to be compared, I believe, nonetheless, that this work captures very well the zeitgeist of our economic times in the context of higher education: the sense that there is an emerging ‘other’ ready to strike against the hegemonic status quo led by the US/UK and other colonial powers. For those interested in such dynamics (from a policy perspective, like myself, or from an academic one, like many of you), this book is an extremely useful and well-crafted reference piece on the emergence of a new global focal point for higher education: the BRICs1.

What We Know about the BRICs

Coined by Goldman Sachs executive Jim O’Neill in the 2001 paper “Building Better Global Economic BRICs,” the idea of a new bloc of emerging economies that could/would compete against dominant global powers, such as the US, UK, and Germany, was likely intended to excite the imagination of potential investors. Yet, even in O’Neill’s groundbreaking work, it is not entirely evident that all things were meant to be equal in assessing the BRICs, as China is given the overwhelming majority of attention in his piece. Perhaps it was to be based on GDP strength? India, Russia, and Brazil all compare favorably against existing economies in an examination of GDP levels weighted by purchasing parity, but this is not so unusual, given that so do Mexico, Korea, and Indonesia, for instance. Why, then, stop at the BRIC acronym/collective? Indeed, even as presented in O’Neill’s original piece, GDP per capital was actually [End Page 913] significantly higher at that point in time in Mexico (US$5,901) and Korea (US$9,678) than in China (US$852) and India (US$473) (O’Neill, 2001).

Perhaps population size (now about 40% of the world’s population), then, can explain the inclusion of China and India in this collective? But if this were the case, then Indonesia should have been included in this bloc (GDP per capita US$730). Or, perhaps, the pockets of rapid growth in these two economies and their connections to the international economy—manufacturing, outsourcing, etc—sparked the imagination of the initial researchers. Or, maybe it’s just that ‘Building with ‘BRICs’ sounded too good to pass up in terms of headline, and the name just stuck. O’Neill’s original work itself assessed the emerging market environment more broadly and with a primary focus on the impending economic domination of China, but the term BRIC, nonetheless, is arguably a more powerful contribution of O’Neill’s work than the economic ideas contained in the original work.

Triumph of the BRICs?

Except, perhaps, for the growing obsession with MOCs, there may be no larger looming fascination in global higher education than what might be learned from the university systems in the BRIC countries. Interest in the rise of the BRIC economies has swept across the world, as the financial crisis that burst the global economic bubble at the end of 2007 and into 2008 seemed to have impacted these countries less dramatically than the established ‘developed’ economies, due in part and varying levels to the BRIC countries’ lesser degrees of exposure to Western finance and banking markets and to the strength of their export and manufacturing bases. Media...


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