This plenary paper addresses basic dilemmas for higher education in the context of ‘development’. It conceptually reviews key issues, posing questions such as ‘Where is higher education in the global development agenda’? ‘What is the contribution of higher education to development’? ‘What dimensions of ‘development’ should higher education address?’ The paper advances a broad conception of higher education’s contribution, noting the inherent conative-cognitive, collective-individual and ethical-political tensions in ‘development’. The case for higher education based on neoliberal human capital demands is a selective and narrow one. An alternative, more expansive agenda could be centred on the problem/ aspiration of ‘sustainable human development’. The paper argues for a holistic, multidimensional understanding of higher education. This involves a vision of integrated scholarship that engages personal and professional development, but links individual and specialised learning to broader democratic purposes and diverse publics, while addressing the crises of sustainability and under-provision of global public goods.