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The impact of Higher Education on socioeconomic and development dynamics: lessons from six study cases

In: Investigaciones de Economía de la Educación 10


  • Sandra Saúde

    () (Instituto Politécnico de Beja)

  • Carlos Borralho

    () (Instituto Politécnico de Beja)

  • Isidro Feria

    () (Instituto Politécnico de Beja)

  • Sandra Lopes

    () (Instituto Politécnico de Beja)


It has long been recognized that human capital, innovation and investment in research and knowledge are fundamental for obtaining sustained growth and social cohesion. HEI as major centers of knowledge and learning were confirmed in the 90’s, on the scope of the so called Knowledge- Based Society, as a kind of engine of innovation, crucial to sustain the socioeconomic competitiveness of countries and regions in the global economy. The debate about the role of HEI in society is often characterized by misunderstanding, over simplifications and/or an absence of evidence. It has often been limited to arguments about the market or ‘close to market’ activities of higher education institutions; with a particular emphasis on research and teaching that has a direct relevance to business and industry and is relatively easy to measure. This skews the argument, undermining the huge value of the total social benefits the sector brings. The paper that we intend to present focus on the gravitational effects that the presence of an Higher Education Institution (HEI) has in a territory, mainly related with the rejuvenation of the population through the attraction, each new academic year, of new young students and, afterwards, at the end of the training period by the fixation of new permanent residents. To the effect on the population dynamics it must be added economic and cultural effects as well, which in a greater or lesser degree, induce and transform the territorial "DNA". From the analysis of 6 case studies: 4 Higher Education Institutions from Portugal (Universities of: Porto, Évora and Algarve; Polytechnic of Beja) and 2 HEI from Spain: Alcalá de Henares and Lleida, we will reflect on what is the role (and proof it with data collected) that higher education has as mainstay of territorial cohesion and sustainability, particularly in areas of low density. Each euro invested in higher education has an important and significant return and multiplier effect in the economic, employment and innovation dynamics and vitality.

Suggested Citation

  • Sandra Saúde & Carlos Borralho & Isidro Feria & Sandra Lopes, 2015. "The impact of Higher Education on socioeconomic and development dynamics: lessons from six study cases," Investigaciones de Economía de la Educación volume 10,in: Marta Rahona López & Jennifer Graves (ed.), Investigaciones de Economía de la Educación 10, edition 1, volume 10, chapter 45, pages 887-905 Asociación de Economía de la Educación.
  • Handle: RePEc:aec:ieed10:10-45

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Melanie Blackwell & Steven Cobb & David Weinberg, 2002. "The Economic Impact of Educational Institutions: Issues and Methodology," Economic Development Quarterly, , vol. 16(1), pages 88-95, February.
    2. Ernesto Tavoletti, 2007. "Assessing the Regional Economic Impact of Higher Education Institutions: An Application to the University of Cardiff," Transition Studies Review, Springer;Central Eastern European University Network (CEEUN), vol. 14(3), pages 507-522, December.
    3. Rubén Garrido-Yserte & María Gallo-Rivera, 2010. "The impact of the university upon local economy: three methods to estimate demand-side effects," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 44(1), pages 39-67, February.
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    More about this item


    Higher Education; Regional Development; Socioeconomic Impacts.;

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • I25 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Economic Development
    • R11 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Regional Economic Activity: Growth, Development, Environmental Issues, and Changes


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