The roles of higher education in sustainable economic and social development increase year by year, and this will continue over the next decades. Higher education can be seen as a focal point of knowledge and its application, an institution which makes a great contribution to the economic growth and development through fostering innovation and increasing higher skills. It is looked as a way to improve the quality of life and address major social and global challenges. Higher education is broadly defined as one of key drivers of growth performance, prosperity and competitiveness. UNESCO says its social role provides the link between the intellectual and educational role of universities on one hand and the development of society on the other. Raising skills holds the key to higher living standards and well-being. Investing in knowledge creation and enabling its diffusion is the key to creating high-wage employment and enhancing productivity growth, points out OECD.
Here is an overview of the most important roles of higher education in today’s economy:
Creating a quality workforce
Higher education gives a person an opportunity to succeed in today’s global economy. Modern universities provide their students with various programmes aimed at preparing them for different economic sectors, helping them to stay and progress in the labour market for long, programmes that make a difference for labour market outcomes and keep pace with changes in the global economy and changes in the innovation process. Universities promote lifelong learning; they offer opportunities to engage and attract professionals into training and professional development.
Supporting business and industry
Business has changed over the last decade, the dynamic processes take place in a range of contexts and landscapes. There are a lot of jobs today that failed to exist several decades ago. Technology is changing the nature of work. The 2017 McKinsey report estimated that 49 percent of time spent on work activities worldwide could be automated using existing technologies. The requirements on employee’s skills have also changed. Higher education institutions assure the relevance of their knowledge, identify skills gaps, create special programmes and build the right skills that can help countries improve economic prosperity and social cohesion, adapt workforce development to the economy and changing demand for the new skills, develop relevant skills and activate skill supply, and thus support improvement in productivity and growth.
Caring out research and promoting technologies
Higher education is a technology and innovation driver. One of the missions of the modern universities is finding solutions to big challenges and conducting research within global priority areas, contributing to social outcomes such as health and social engagement. Often it is aimed at designing technologies that result in new products and supplying advanced technology for use.
Knowledge is the true basis of higher education: its production via research, its transmission via teaching, its acquisition and use by students. Hence, excellence must remain the prime objective of any institution of higher education, including universities in any country. Russia retains universities’s tradional role as critics and servants of society and is setting its sights high. Russia’s leading universities Project 5-100 participants guarantee excellence in the knowledge and training that they impart. These institutions are focusing resources on quality education, encouraging students and taking account of students’ profiles and specific needs, strengthening teacher training and exposure to best working practices and creating incentives to attract the most experienced teachers.
Countries are putting knowledge at the service of their societies to create a better world. This can be achieved through the training of first-class minds, through major advances in science and technology and by encouraging an interest in learning. Now, to realize its full potential, higher education is to maintain a pro-active stance, strengthen its position as a bedrock upon which countries are and build a new road to growth. It cannot be passive.