This short policy paper provides an overview of the multiple roles an HE system can play in a knowledge society and economy. It highlights the key role of creating and sustaining high-skill ecosystems (HSEs). It then examines the dramatic expansion of HE in the UK, and the issues that, in preparing its workforce for the knowledge economy, still remain for the UK to be world-class. The UK’s experience is then compared with two different case studies of the role of HE in HSEs and economic development: Singapore and India. It concludes by exploring conclusions and lessons for policymakers.