The article defines the role of university in modern society, considers its place and functions in socioeconomic and cultural development, as well as in foreign policy. The authors state that in all historical epochs the university better than other social institutions has accumulated scientific knowledge, without which a consistent development of society is impossible. It is noted that the modern era is characterized by unprecedented dynamism and rates of development. The role of information and synthesis of various cultural systems is growing. Against this backdrop, education traditionally remains a weighty lever of influence on the evolution of society, transmits the entire positive experience of the mankind to new generations. The activities of national universities are one of the elements of international politics. The article examines the concepts of Russian and foreign scholars regarding the mission and tasks of the University as a social institution. Particular attention is paid to Russia's experience in this field.