This World Bank report describes the role higher education plays in building developing countries' capacity to participate in a knowledge-based world economy and outlines policy options to promote economic development. It confirms the shift in the World Bank's attitude to education support as a driver of socioeconomic growth.

The authors ask why higher education is important for development, how developing countries can best utilise their higher education systems, and how the World Bank and other donors can support local governments. They argue that knowledge is essential for development — and higher education is essential to create and apply knowledge.

They conclude that developing countries risk marginalisation because of their weak higher education systems, and stress the need for government and donor support.