By Sourajit Aiyer
While BRICS is an acronym synonymous with emerging economies, BRUCS can be a new acronym for new destinations of higher-education. The call against globalization across many nations, most being traditional ‘study-abroad’ destinations, has hit their demand from potential students. At the same time, new countries are transforming themselves as centers of education and research. Some are emerging economies, making them more relevant in the contemporary economic climate. Students can be closer to the real action, get access to local experts, and gain insights from the lion’s mouth. Emerging economies also offer better chances for work. The setting up of VC funds and incubators in emerging markets has broadened the opportunity for would-be entrepreneurs. They also make better commercial sense, given the high fees in many older destinations to make up for the subsidies to local students.
So what does BRUCS stand for? Brazil — Rhineland — UAE — China — Singapore is the full form of this new acronym. Of these five, four are emerging economies while three are in Asia. While all countries have good universities, they may not suffice the number of prospective students, especially from the large-population and low median-age Asian countries. BRUCS can be the new acronym of higher-education markets that are becoming increasingly relevant for students.
Let us start with China. China has invested significantly in scholarships for international students as part of its plan to globalize its student-base. It has invested significantly in research, and is now in the same league as USA, UK, Japan, etc. The ISTI report rates China 2nd globally after USA in terms of total citations. It also ranks high in patent filings. The results are visible. In the QS University Rankings 2017, Chinese universities like Peking, Tsinghua, Fudan and Shanghai Jiao Tong ranked amongst the top globally. Add to this Hong Kong’s UHK, HKUST, CUHK, and it makes a strong contingent in the top-league. They ranked amongst the Top-25 globally in Engineering, and amongst the Top-50 globally in Social Sciences. In Business, they ranked high in Asia. Many western universities are now setting up JVs with China’s varsities. At the same time, its degree is more cost-effective. IIE estimated China has as many foreign students as traditional destinations like France or Australia. English language is not an issue, as it has designed programmes and support in English. Chinese airlines are also fast expanding their coverage across continents to aid connectivity. Given the importance of China in the global sphere, a degree from China becomes as relevant as one can get. Many global firms today place a lot of value to a China-stint in their applicants’ bios.
Moving to Singapore, while it is home to the high-quality NUS and Nanyang varsities, even top universities from the West have set up Asia centers in Singapore (like INSEAD) or joint-degree programmes with NUS (HEC, MIT, Columbia, Sciences Po, NYU, King’s, etc). These are mainly for Policy, Business, Management, Law and Sciences. Thus, students can get the quality of Western education at a more competitive price. Many researchers in Singapore’s universities are from neighbouring countries, making its research topics more relevant for Asia’s issues. Add to this the comparatively lower airfare from most Asian cities to Singapore vis-à-vis the West, it makes a good deal indeed!
The UAE has seen significant investments in higher-education. Many western universities have set up centers across subjects in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. They often import faculty from the parent to ensure quality of education. These locations may work better from the cultural standpoint, especially for those from South Asian nations. While these cities are expensive, they are still a better deal than the West. The airfares are also lower. While the GCC is seeing its own economic headwinds, it still holds good job-prospects. Their governments are also keen to deepen human capital, as they seek to diversify away from oil.
Outside Asia, the Rhine-land refers to Germany and Netherlands. They are relevant on two counts. They are research bastions in technology, mechanics and robotics — all relevant to build innovations of tomorrow. Their programmes are subsidized, making it a better deal than the UK, USA or Australia. Humboldt and Amsterdam rank high globally in Social Sciences, while Erasmus and Mannheim score high in Business. KIT Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, TU Berlin and Eindhoven rank high in Engineering, while RWTH Aachen, TU Munich and Delft score high in Mechanics and Manufacturing. They have world-class research facilities, and work with industries on next-generation innovation. EU-funded projects between companies and universities highlight the thrust towards innovation. Moreover, Germans and Dutch are the better English-speakers in Europe outside the UK.
A Brazilian degree can be relevant, given the number of offices set up across Latin America catering to USA/Canada due to location and time-zone advantages — near-shoring in outsourcing parlance. Many Asian IT, ITeS and KPO firms have invested in Latin American centers. Brazil hosts some quality universities. While Fundacao FGV is globally known for Business, Sao Paulo and Campinas rank high in South America in Social Sciences and Engineering. Its public universities are relatively cheaper for foreigners. It has good linkages with US universities for internships and exchanges, helping gain valuable US exposure. Moreover, Brazil is trying to internationalize itself, and the Brazilian Exchange Bureau is trying to attract quality students and faculty to enhance its academic standing.
In a world where change is the new normal, education is also changing. BRUCS showcases five increasingly relevant markets for higher-education for students, and it may be an acronym just worth exploring!
This article was originally published here.
About Sourajit Aiyer
Sourajit Aiyer works with a leading capital markets company in Mumbai. Previously, he worked with financial companies in Delhi, London and Dhaka. As a personal interest, he writes for business publications and runs his comics page. He has written on over 60 topics in 30 publications across 13 countries. He is the author of the E-Book, “Flying with the Winged Elephant: Niche business themes that may emerge in India”. His news/satire comics page is now on Facebook, “Sourajit Aiyer Comics”