This contribution examines key intersections between development, higher education and research. It suggests that the interactions between these domains are neglected and argues that higher education’s contribution needs to be re-imagined to address problematic divides between research and education, between education and other disciplines and between global educational and development goals. Drawing upon Boyer’s re-imagination of ‘scholarships’, research is re-situated within an ecology of practice comprising engagement, inter-disciplinary collaboration and teaching. A current crisis of meaning and values is emerging in higher education, with the dominant arguments in favour of human capital formation. Yet, the indications are that the pursuit of human capital on its own is unsustainable, unless it is balanced with an understanding, and protection of, natural and social capital. A case is made for higher education to integrate scholarships, focused on the question of sustainable human development, and using rights as an integrative concern and grounding for global higher education.