The paper expounds on the challenges confronting institutions of higher agricultural education (HAE) in the context of the significant role of education in alleviating poverty, especially in rural areas, and in light of the changing needs of rural areas and economies. Specifically, HAE institutions are called upon to initiate and lead in articulating a vision for the future that serves the needs not only of agriculture but also of all who inhabit the rural areas. They can step beyond their traditional role by merging forces with other stakeholders to enrich and support other levels of education with critical knowledge and information on agriculture and natural resources management (NRM), the latter being crucial in the pursuit of rural development, poverty reduction, and food security. To perform an active and constructive role in rural development, agricultural universities need to adjust their programs to accommodate new topics, as well as teaching and learning models; forge new partnerships with schools, academia and rural space stakeholders; expand its representation in governance; and hold continuous dialogue with policymakers. Their extension services could include support to education for rural people that encompasses primary, secondary, vocational, and adult education. University-school linkages are perceived to be illustrative of a decentralized, democratic, and community-based response to rural development problems. It is noted that universities can potentially become showcases of local traditions and knowledge, reflecting the regional, cultural, and ethical traditions of their society, as well as global movements and forces. In reinforcing their roles as contributors to a culture of learning and rural development, it is emphasized that HAE institutions need to engage more directly and more effectively in partnerships and dialogue with other local educational institutions and their surrounding communities. Findings of the ongoing IIEP-UNESCO/FAO program of research on HAE institutions in Asia are expected to provide information on how higher education institutions contribute to learning and rural development, and insights on how their strategic role in this field could be strengthened and further developed.