This paper critically interrogates the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in relation to higher education in low-income countries. While the SDG Goal 4, Target 4.3, calls for ensuring 'equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university' around the world by 2030, the SDGs lack targets that would make this a reality in many countries where higher education requires reform and rebuilding. Instead of providing assistance to these countries to (re)build and strengthen their fragile higher education systems and institutions, the SDGs, as expressed in Target 4.7, aim to only provide opportunities to a select group of individuals to study at universities in developed and some developing countries. This approach has failed in the past and will only lead to the creation of dependency on foreign aid and assistance and continuation of chronic lack of capacity in many countries. This paper will show that despite the rhetoric about leaving no one behind, the SDGs will leave many behind through the neglect of higher education in low-income countries. Building local institutional and other forms of capacity in the higher education sector in low-income countries should have been one of the priorities in the SDGs. This way countries would be able to develop and strengthen universities and other institutions of higher learning and deliver quality education to their populations. The paper will map out a possible way forward for those interested in assisting low-income countries to strengthen their higher education systems and institutions as this is a prerequisite for inclusive socio-economic development and environmental sustainability.