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Higher Ed in 2025 and O'Neill's "Growth Map" BRIC Story
July 23, 2012 - 9:00pm

The Growth Map: Economic Opportunity in the BRICs and Beyond by Jim O'Neill
Publication Date: December 8, 2011

Perhaps you wonder if the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) need a book-length treatment. How much more do we need to know about these big, fast growing economies? And does it even make sense to think about Brazil and India together, China and Russia?  Jim O'Neill has been dining out (or traveling about) on his BRIC concept for years - and has even extended this framework to the "Next Eleven" (Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Turkey, and Vietnam).  

Maybe this book is only somewhat relevant to the investor class.  By now, investing in the BRICs (who O'Neill no longer refers to as emerging but as growth nations) is conventional wisdom. And certainly O'Neill's company Goldman Sachs, where O'Neill is partner and head honcho type, will take your money to invest in any number of BRIC funds.   

The people who most need to read The Growth Map are those tasked with ensuring that institutions of higher learning in which we work, (or sell services or products to), are vibrant and relevant in 2025. If your institution's president, provost, CEO, or board members are not reading and discussing The Growth Map then I would begin to worry. In fact, forget worry - I recommend taking action. Buy the book and give it to the people entrusted with the long-term strategic thinking at your place of employment.

The key takeaway in this surprisingly good book is that we, in already wealth world, fundamentally misunderstand how globalization is realigning the world economy. We are used to thinking of China and India as the producers of things that we buy.  China mostly for manufacturing. India mostly for services. When we think of Brazil and Russia at all we think of them in terms of energy producers, as the home of soccer stars (Brazil), and a place of political backwardness (Putin's Russia).   

What we do not get is that by 2025 the BRIC countries, when put together, will make up the world's largest consumer market. Our future economic success will depend on our ability to sell services and goods to the people in the countries that we now largely think of as suppliers to our economy.  

This does not mean that in 2025 the average Brazilian, Russian, Indian or Chinese person will be wealthier than the average American (or German or Canadian or Japanese etc. etc.). Rather, it is the sheer population size of these countries, combined with their rapid economic growth, that will create the largest consumer markets in the world.

What this means for higher education is straightforward. We need to understand the size of the opportunity to provide higher learning (a service) to the people of the growth economies. And we need to understand the threat if we fail to provide these educational services, as someone else will. If we are not relevant to learners in Brazil, Russia, China or India then at some point we will simply cease to be relevant.   

U.S. higher education starts with some amazing advantages around quality and brand, but our window to figure how to extend these advantages to new markets may be shorter than we realize. Technology has accelerated the pace in which new players and new models can supplant old methods of doing things - and this will be as true in education as it has been in other information industries.   

Does your institution have a BRIC strategy? A global plan? Perhaps everyone reading The Growth Map would be a good place to begin the conversation.

What are you reading?


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