Philip McCann is Professor of Economic Geography at Groningen University and Special Advisor to the European Commissioner for Regional Policy. He has been examining the relationship between education, employment and locality. In his view, higher education can significantly improve life chances, whilst also playing an important employment role in local economies.


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Photo by Fred Ernst


“University graduates who move into employment are essentially the people who learn the quickest. In this sense, universities play a bigger role in teaching students how to deal with issues and how to apply them, than in teaching them new things. Education is therefore more than just about knowing things: it is about the learning effect and the speed with which you can know other things.”

“In Australia, higher education is clearly benefiting the country as 80% of the value added to the Australian economy is accounted for by university graduates between the ages 25 - 40 years old.”

“Universities are therefore no longer merely national knowledge centres, which also counteracts the risk of national monopoly positions. By creating a standardised system of educational attainment, universities are open to students throughout the world, and this rise in mobility of ideas (and the people who embody these ideas), is raising the general level of worldwide (tertiary) education.”

“What has changed in the last 20 years, however, is that the world has become much more open. This change was marked between 1988 and 1994, when modern globalisation was born. (...) The effects of modern globalisation hugely influenced the labour market, where people could now access the entire globe. The ‘winners’ of the first decade of modern globalisation were the global cities, i.e. London, Milan, New York, Amsterdam etc.”

“The concepts of place, cities and regions should be taken more seriously in Dutch policies, which need to realise that sectoral problems are not related to place. The role of universities are extremely important in this sense, because they help bridge the gap between the public sector and private sector and between the big companies and small companies."

The report of the lecture and expert meeting held at the University of Leiden on February 16 and 17, 2012 can be downloaded here.