Calls for sustaining and increasing investment in higher education are often made on the basis that higher education is a `public good'. The idea of higher education as a public good is frequently conceptualized in terms of its contribution to economic development. If more people participate in higher education then society as a whole will benefit.

Outside of the economic benefits of higher education there is less debate as to what is meant by `public good' in the context of higher education. This paper explores higher education as a public good and its role in realizing the public good (Jonathan 2001).

With particular reference to Ireland, this paper also looks at the impact of conceptualizing the `public good' role of higher education from an economic perspective, and what this implies for students, higher education institutions and society.



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