When the Prime Minister Narendra Modi floated the idea of a SAARC satellite it seemed novel and smacked of being path-breaking despite eyebrows arching over whether India was slowly assuming a big brother attitude. Though the idea of such a satellite would serve to promote exchange of data on met, intelligence and other complementary areas has to be accepted. Mr. Modi at BRICS meet went further and suggested the formation of a BRICS university which within the preamble of the organization would be worth a try. For in the present global scenario it would ease the flow of skills across the member countries following measures to smoothen visa formalities to boost tourist revenue as has happened in Europe.
It would be interesting to gauge its scope in the context of the present development matrix. Since the turn of the century BRICS has emerged as a buoyant financial body with access to a substantial share of the global market, rivaling IMF and the World Bank. Almost all member countries have developed stakes in exporting textile garment and apparel though Brazil, with its high labour cost and export exchange rate, ranks lowest while China tops in the area with its cheap garments. India does have a well entrenched competitive garment industry, with cotton being the much valued import product across BRICS. But for Russia which has a small market for garments the other members do covet cotton on a large scale. If textiles does become a major subject of study in BRICS envisaging technology transfer and other benefits then it will be a window to a large exchange of students. There could be a diversified course in textile technology capping on annual campus recruitment that could follow as a natural course in the respective member nations. It would create specialized pools of skills in the BRICS countries which could complement one another.
In countries where the supply of engineering graduates is high and the labour cost low(for instance, India and Brazil) the prospects of IT/BPO companies are invariably rosy. Till recently Western European countries hogged the market share of outsourcing business because of the range of their applications and needs. However the scene has changed in view of the scalability of skills and its growing supply commensurate with the rising demand for better and more deserving pay. In India giants such as TCS and Infosys have set up branches in China obviously to cash in on the growing pool of English speaking Chinese labour. The Chinese government had already put in enormous stress on learning English which enhances the labour potential there. This parallel can be extended to European languages too as can be seen in Morocco (largely French speaking) or Spanish speaking populations in Central America.
Language skills have become an inalienable factor in the recruitment road map of IT/BPO. And these skills are destined to play a determining role in the shaping of a BRICS university. South Africa, a late value addition to BRICS, has an established reserve of BPO/IT companies with its array of languages, besides English. The idea of such an university has become more of a necessity than a fancy in view of the inter-linkages that global trade, investment flows and sharing of skills have generated.
Would it ease the flow of students and skills across BRICS? Perhaps it would be too simplistic to think so because of the risk factors like the shadow of terrorism, labour unrest and market fluctuations. EU obliterated border lines long back to facilitate flow of human traffic for tourism, trade or a host of emerging needs. There are attendant complications to it. In the present times one cannot be looking too far as it might smack of utopianism. But a BRICS university cannot be far behind if the recent developments in trade and technology transfer are any indication.