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The Handbook of Global Science, Technology, and Innovation by Andrea Filippetti, Daniele Archibugi

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Chapter 2 World Top University Rankings: From Distribution to Implications on National Knowledge Creation and Competitiveness

Thanh Quang Le and Kam Ki Tang

Introduction

Universities have been at the heart of human capital and knowledge creation since Plato founded the first one in 387 bce at Athens. Nowadays, universities play a central role in driving economic development around the world. Alan Greenspan, the former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve System, speaking on the “structural change in the new economy” to the National Governors Association in 2000, emphasized that:

In a global environment in which prospects for economic growth now depend importantly on a country’s capacity to develop and apply new technologies, our universities are envied around the world. … If we are to remain preeminent in transforming knowledge into economic value, the US system of higher education must remain the world’s leader in generating scientific and technological breakthroughs and in preparing workers to meet the evolving demand for skilled labor. (Greenspan 2000)

This statement succinctly summarizes the mission of leading US universities in contributing to the economic development of the country. Universities are important initiating forces for national innovation capacity as they seed new generations of applied research, scientific breakthroughs, and streams of new products. They also play a central and strategic role in educating and training scientists, engineers, teachers, ...

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