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The Bigger Role of Higher Education in Society

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Higher education can increase a student’s chance of gaining a satisfying career after graduation.

Higher education institutions (HEIs) can influence society. According to the United Nations article titled “Higher Learning Institutions and Global Citizen Education”.  Higher learning institutions such as universities have the role of providing “global citizen education.”

Aside from having skillful graduates, a graduate equipped with the right mindset for positive change should also be the goal of higher education institutions. Global citizen education is encouraged by drafting of international affairs within a school’s curriculum.

Key Points at a Glance

  • Higher Education Institutions should equip students with a global perspective.
  • Higher education can help solve shared challenges such as climate change by incorporating international affairs in their curriculum.  
  • Students who have higher education can offer unique contributions to society.

What Is the Importance of Higher Education for Society?

the UN secretary general
Image from UN/Mark Garten

According to then U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

It is not enough for education to produce individuals who can read, write and count. Education must be transformative and bring shared values to life. It must cultivate an active care for the world and for those with whom we share it….It must give people the understanding, skills and values they need to cooperate in resolving the interconnected challenges of the twenty-first century.

U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon Tweet

Higher education institutions should equip students with the skills, knowledge and perspective that will enable them to become better citizens. They can do so much more to students and to the society as a whole if they champion global citizen education.

Global citizen education by exposing students to global or international affairs will make them cognizant of other cultures and even challenges faced by other countries. A conscious effort to teach international affairs will help bridge the gap between theories and the real world.

A student may know the textbook meaning of dictatorship but teaching them about countries that run under a dictatorship and narrating the kind of life they live may make the concept more real and more actionable.

A student may know the concept of plastic pollution but showing them the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” may make them rethink how they dispose of their garbage.

What Are the 3 Most Important Benefits of Higher Education?

Higher education bestowed by higher education institutions have 3 important levels of benefits:

On a personal level – higher education can help a student rise above poverty. According to the Statistics Canada data, the employment rate increases with higher education. Investing in higher education will boost a student’s chances for landing a job and for earning a better wage.

On a community level – higher education can help a community thrive in both economic and societal ways. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said that various societal activities aimed to improve life such as “voting, volunteering, political interest and interpersonal trust” are much demonstrated or practiced by “educated” people.

On a global level –  higher education can help society as a whole because it can expose each student to transboundary or shared issues such as rising sea levels, climate change and plastic pollution.


Higher Learning Institutions and Global Citizen Education. (n.d.). un.org. https://www.un.org/en/chronicle/article/higher-learning-institutions-and-global-citizen-education

International Encyclopedia of Education (Third Edition). (2010). Higher Education Institutions. ScienceDirect. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/social-sciences/higher-education-institutions

jackallenyehuda. (2016, December 8). The Benefits of Higher Education. hastac.org. https://www.hastac.org/blogs/jackkunis/2016/12/08/benefits-higher-education

Statistics Canada. (2007). Statistics Canada. Retrieved 2021, from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/71-222-x/2008001/sectionf/f-education-eng.htmCanadian Stat


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