Tale of two cities. A comparative study of relationship Between education and economic prosperity

Sharaf Rehman, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Joanna Dzionek-Kozlowska, University of Lodz

Abstract

Over the last century, the social function and the role of the universities and other higher education institutions (HEI) changed significantly. What the contemporary students expect to gain due to their university education is neither enlightenment nor insight, but rather skills and practical knowledge needed to successfully find and retain a job. In turn, the modern HEI ceased to be the entities isolated from their surroundings but became the institutions intertwined into community life. Hence, our purpose is to redefine the role of the universities in their communities with the emphasis put on the relationship between the HEI and the communities’ economic performance. The general discussion on the transition in academy’s place in the society is presented in the first section of the article, whereas its second part provides an overview of the potential contributions to the reciprocal development made by the universities and communities. Against such a background two illustrative examples are analyzed, i.e. Lodz, Poland and Brownsville, Texas. Both the theoretical inquiries and these examples’ analysis confirm that the relationship between the development of the universities and economic performance is bi-directional: on the one hand, the investments in HEI trigger stimuli towards economic growth, and on the other, the economic prosperity of the city commonly results in invigorating the scientific research. The article concludes that despite the fact the interrelatedness between universities and local communities’ economic performance is too complex to be boiled down to any simple rule, the communities’ investments in HEI may sow seeds of future economic growth and provide a safety net protecting the economy in times of stagnations or slumps.