Argues for changes in the traditional way of viewing economic growth and questions the role that contemporary institutions, specifically universities, play in this process. Shows, empirically, the increasing importance that knowledge is assuming in economic activity in developed countries. Outlines a new conceptual approach to economic growth, in which the accumulation of knowledge acts as the fundamental driving force. Describes new economic growth theories, laying out principal concepts relevant to an analysis of the present-day role of the universities. Examines the role of the university in the context of knowledge-based economies. Concludes that while the role of the university is of renewed importance, its institutional integrity must be preserved through a strengthening of its ability to create and disseminate knowledge.