Reading 'Brazil: The Troubled Rise of a Global Power’ With A Higher Ed Lens

Why every postsecondary leader should read this book.

February 7, 2016

Brazil: The Troubled Rise of a Global Power by Michael Reid

Published in May of 2014. (But only released in audiobook format in January of 2016!).

Every college president and provost should read Michael Reid’s excellent book Brazil: The Troubled Rise of a Global Power. In fact, anyone on your campus who is interested in the economic viability and cultural relevancy of your institution should also read this book.

We tend to give lots of thought (quite justifiably) to the importance of international students from Asia (both East and South) when we think about future enrollment trends. Reading Reid’s book on Brazil should push us to include this South American country in our thinking.

Michael Reid, a journalist for The Economist, has written an excellent one volume introduction to the history, politics, economics, and sociology of Brazil. It is impossible to read about this impossibly complex country of over 200 million without thinking that we should be thinking about Brazil more than we do.

The Brazilian higher education system, which Reid also covers in the book, is truly different from the U.S. The Brazilian higher ed sector is booming, with enrollments of over 7 million students (a number that has doubled over the past 10 years). Public and private not-for-profit colleges and universities have not been able to keep up with demand - a gap that has been filled by the for-profit sector. Today, over 5 million Brazilian’s attend for-profit schools - around twice the for-profit enrollment in the U.S.

Learning about the Brazilian system of postsecondary education is fascinating (and again, another good reason to read this book) - but the real reason that we should be talking about Brazil is mindshare and recruitment.

A quick primer on the current impact of Brazilian students on U.S. postsecondary education:

  • In 2014/2015 almost 24,000 Brazilian students came to the U.S. to study.
  • This number up 78 percent from the previous year, and represents the largest increase of students from any sending country.
  • Brazilian students studying in the U.S. contributed over $400 million to the U.S. Economy.
  • In 2014/2015 about a million foreign university students came to the U.S. to study, an increase of 10 percent from the preview year.
  • While today China (304,000 students), India (133,000), and South Korea are the biggest senders - Brazil’s young and increasingly affluent population is likely to result in significant sending growth.
  • Spend time at any top U.S. business school and you will run into serious contingents of (very stylish) Brazilians.

Today, Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of sugar, coffee, orange juice and beef - and the 2nd largest exporter of soybeans. Not to mention control of the world’s largest beer producer - InBev, and the 4th largest producer of business jets - Embraer.

Tomorrow, with its young age structure, limited options for postsecondary education, and rising incomes - Brazil could evolve into one of the biggest sources of international colleges students in the world.

Does your school have outreach programs in Brazil to raise awareness about your institution, and attract future applicants?

Can you suggest any good resources to learn more about the Brazilian higher education system?  (Reid’s chapter on Brazilian higher education is excellent, but it left me wanting to learn more).

How much does thinking about Brazil occupy in your thinking about the future of your school?

Can you suggest other excellent one-volume country biographies?

What are you reading?



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