Higher education and economic development: the importance of building technological capabilities
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Higher education and development has not been a priority of global policy or research funding in recent decades. Yet, since the millennium, Southern governments have become believers in the global knowledge economy and higher education enrolment growth has been phenomenal. In this paper we offer an original account of how higher education institutions contribute to economic development by drawing on evolutionary economics and the national innovation systems approach. This offers distinct advantages in conceptualising higher education's developmental role, through its stress on the importance of education, skills, work, innovation and production for economic development. Using these concepts, we examine how well South African higher education is positioned to contribute to economic development through a consideration of two case studies from astronomy and automotives. These highlight the importance of the intersection between global, national, sectoral and spatial dimensions of
the education economic development relationship. We suggest that dynamics at multiple scalar levels work in complex ways to shape possibilities for development. We argue that such an approach offers a way forward for international education and development thinking about the relationship between education, technological innovation, production and development.