New BRICS deal on education, research collaboration

The BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – last Wednesday signed a far-reaching agreement on cooperation in education that includes joint research and more collaboration in postgraduate training and co-publishing.

The joint declaration and memorandum of understanding was signed by ministers from the BRICS nations in Moscow, according to a statement by South Africa’s Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande.

A BRICS Network of Universities will be the anchor for university collaboration across the five countries, and Nzimande said a process had already begun to nominate 12 South African universities to participate.

He said the “significant and far-reaching agreement” highlighted coordination in areas of mutual interest and developing a solid framework for future cooperation in education.

Among other things it commits partners to “support joint research projects, encourage more collaborative programmes at postgraduate, doctorate and postdoctorate levels and co-publishing of scientific results by BRICS universities”.

Nzimande said his Department of Higher Education and Training had “established a national coordinating committee comprising government and members of the academic community to play an oversight role on the establishment of the BRICS network”.

The agreement follows a meeting in Brazil earlier this year where BRICS countries agreed to strengthen the internationalisation of higher education and academic mobility, vocational and technical education, and work to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education.

And late last month a BRICS Global University Summit was held at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and was attended by more than 400 representatives of leading universities from the five countries.

The main aim of the meeting was to share experiences in education, and a number of initiatives to promote higher education were announced.

Last week’s agreement also includes activities in general education, educational policy strategy and technical and vocational education and training, or TVET.

“We want to collaborate to improve the quality of teaching and teachers’ education. The collaboration means that we recognise the establishment of the BRICS Working Group on TVET to develop national reports, share concepts, methods and instruments of analysis matching workforce demands and supply for BRICS member countries,” said Nzimande.

He stressed the need to foreground TVET as a key strategic area for BRICS countries, as the sector had “the potential to unlock economic opportunities for our young people, and thereby assist to address the challenges of unemployment, inequality and poverty”.