Can BRICS build ivory towers of excellence? Giving new meaning to world-class universities

Solomon Arulraj David, Shireen Motala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


This paper aims to map the landscape of higher education transformation in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) nations while exploring the status of BRICS nations in some of the global university rankings and analysing their potential to give new meaning to notions such as excellent and world-class universities. The study provides different theoretical perspectives about global university ranking and about the notion of ‘world-class/excellence’. Based on the literature exploration, the gathered data from some of the global university ranking agencies and the critical reflections from purposefully selected respondents, it is considered that the quest for world-class universities is articulated in several public policy documents of BRICS nations. While some attempts to achieve this quest vary (e.g. from China’s strong effort to India’s least effort), BRICS nations, like many other nations, seem to evolve towards this ambition, as universities have become the centre point of the development agenda. The ability of BRICS nations to provide new meaning to ‘world-class/excellence’ notions, although not clear, cannot be disputed given the indications that the BRICS bloc is emerging as an alternative economic force and the role higher education is playing in this emergence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)512-528
Number of pages17
JournalResearch in Comparative and International Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa)
  • World-class university
  • centres of excellence
  • university ranking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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