The European Commission has released a research paper comparing the efficiency of higher education institutions around Europe with the US & Japan included for comparison (h/t University Blog). The authors use Data Envelopment Analysis and Stochastic Frontier Analysis. The two methods give broadly similar results - always reassuring. Its a long and not always easy read but well worth a look. Aside from the core statistical analysis there is a lot of useful descriptive statistics. From what I can see its pretty well done. The paper is concerned with efficiency in research based on publications (allowing for citations) and in teaching, based on graduations and adjusted for employability of graduates (based on employer surveys). Having measured efficiency across country they go on to see what factors explain cross country differences and how these efficiency differences influence the effect of higher education on employability.
In terms of research efficiency Ireland is nothing special but in terms of teaching efficiency we do pretty well along with the UK. This is essentially driven by our universities being good at producing graduates & particularly ones that are valued by employers. One thing that UK and Irish universities have in common is that they produce English speaking graduates so I don't know how this is taken into account, if at all. Clearly this isn't something we can take credit for.
The authors draw a number of interesting conclusions as to what drives these differences in efficiency:
*When funding to institutions depends on outputs efficiency is higher
*Efficiency is higher when there is independent evaluation by stakeholders/independent agencies.
*Institutions ability to hire & fire staff & to set wages is associated with efficiency.