You must know an isosceles triangle from an equilateral triangle. You may also have heard about the Bermuda triangle. How about the Golden Triangle that connects higher education, youth, and economic development? Probably not.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
— Maimonides, a philosopher.
These wise words, said close to a thousand years ago, have a deep significance for India—a nation of 1.3 billion people. It turns out when you teach a young man and woman how to fish you also feed their family. This inspires the local community and the positive impact of education gets amplified across the region and the nation. Thus the connection of education to the well-being of the youth, their family and the nation is beyond doubt.
I submit that if education is the key for the nation, then higher education is the master key. Higher Education, which is all post-secondary education, including vocational training, sits at a critical junction of our society. First, colleges and universities prepare professionals for their lives and careers. This includes preparing teachers for primary and secondary schools and faculty members for colleges and universities. Second, they also have the potential for fostering research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Third, well-prepared professionals and a thriving research, innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem make the economy more vibrant and sustainable.
First, excellent colleges and universities prepare young men and women for their life and careers. As a result, young men and women can expect income and social mobility. Numerous research studies indicate that students with college degrees have higher income potential than non-graduates. College graduates also have higher chances of being employed. In a world that is increasingly connected, highly competitive, and quickly getting disrupted by technology, an educated person is more likely to survive and thrive.
Second, excellent universities and colleges also foster much-needed research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Faculty members and students in universities such as Stanford and UC Berkeley are conducting research in various disciplines and at the intersection of fields. Their research is advancing our understanding of our past, our world and the universe. Basic and applied research is also fueling innovation and the start-up ecosystem resulting in new and better products and services and a vibrant economy.
Stanford University was ranked #2 in ARWU 2016 rankings of Top 500 universities. In addition to outstanding education and research, it has become an innovation powerhouse. According to a 2012 study, since the 1930s Stanford University’s entrepreneurs (faculty and alumni) have started 39,900 companies, which in turn have created 5.4 million jobs and generated US$2.7 trillion in annual revenues in 2014.
Approximately forty miles from Stanford, UC Berkeley’s vibrant research, education, and service engine also powers the local, regional, and national economy. UC Berkeley was ranked #3 in ARWU 2016 rankings of Top 500 universities. The results of a study conducted on behalf of UC Berkeley by CB Richard Ellis Consulting were released in 2007. It was based on 2005 to 2006 fiscal year data. Some of the highlights included: that Berkeley had revenues of US$1.4 billion, of which 71 percent came from outside the Bay Area. It spent approximately US$144 million on capital projects and US$401 million on goods and services and US$808 million in payroll. A large percentage was spent in the local community. With 24,700 employees, it is one of the largest employers in the region. In addition, students spent US$395 million in the Bay Area and visitors to Berkeley spent another US$30 million in the city of Berkeley. According to the study, this spending has a multiplier effect of approximately 1.5. Thus, the total impact of UC Berkeley was more than US$1.5 billion, generating an additional 9,200 indirect jobs in the Bay Area.
Third, a vibrant higher education system can be a game changer for the economy. Well-prepared professionals in all sectors improve products, services, and economic productivity. The state of California has a thriving higher education system, which includes the University of California, California State University, California Community Colleges, and private universities such as Stanford, University of Southern California, and the Claremont University Consortium. Thanks in large measure due to its higher education system California is home to a thriving economy and diverse industries such as agriculture, entertainment, financial and business services, manufacturing, tourism, life sciences and healthcare, trade, and high-technology. If it were a nation, California would be the eighth largest in the world with a gross state product of US$2.2 trillion.
Many developed nations such as the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Finland have a world-class university system. Several recently developed countries such as South Korea and Singapore have taken a leaf from that playbook and transformed their higher education system to be world-class. China is rapidly catching up with the best of the best in higher education.
Thus, it is evident that excellent higher education system is good for the youth and the local and national economy. I have written extensively that India’s higher education system is in crisis and also made the case for establishing world-class institutions. By transforming the higher education system, India has the unique opportunity to unleash the potential of hundreds of millions of youth, solve its mega challenges such as energy, health, and water, and make its economy and environment more vibrant and sustainable, i.e. build a Golden India.
With 1.3 billion people, of which 900 million are below the age of 40 years, the Golden Triangle is one of the most important ideas of our times. Now that you know this, what will you do about it?
Join the conversation. Contribute your time and energy to making India’s higher education system world-class. #Nalanda2
(This article includes excerpts from the book Building Golden India: How to unleash India's vast potential and transform its higher education system. Now.)
Founder and President
For a world-class higher education system in India