While developing countries have prioritised primary education, higher education seems to have been neglected. The paper suggests that the low emphasis placed on higher education is because there has been a general under-appreciation of the contribution of higher education to development. The paper starts by proposing a functional definition that considers ‘higher education’ as a dynamic concept which changes over time and with levels of development. The paper also emphasises the importance of quality of education in development and suggests that most policy focus in Africa has focused on the quantity of education and largely ignored the equally important quality dimension. The paper reviews a wide range of literature that has sought to investigate the link between higher education and development. The studies reviewed focus on returns to higher education and the impact on higher education on economic growth. One of the evidence of the importance of higher education on development is revealed by the fact although there has been convergence across countries in primary school enrolments, the incomes of African countries have diverged from those of Asian and Latin American counterparts. On the other hand, just as incomes have diverged so have enrollments in tertiary education. Overall, the empirical evidence available shows that higher education is crucial to the development of today's societies. The paper concludes with confidence that while primary and secondary education is necessary for development and economic growth, it is clearly not sufficient. The paper provides suggestions for research. Copyright 2011 , Oxford University Press.