The first universities were established in the medieval age, connected to the Catholic church and educating only a small handful. A millennium later, and universities have expanded in number, scope and scale: tens of thousands of institutions of higher education exist around the world, with hundreds of millions of students studying fields ranging from the classical (theology, law) to modern sciences and technology.
Despite the explosion in higher education since World War II, the contribution of universities to economic development remains somewhat unclear. Yes, education matters for growth, and university graduates typically have greater earnings potential than non-graduates. But universities as a specific motor for economic growth is, to a large extent, more posited than proven. Valero and Van Reenen attempt to close this gap using data on almost 15,000 universities across 78 countries.→