Sunday, March 28, 2010

Efficiency in Higher Education across Europe

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.


Colm Harmon said...

This is one of the best (in terms of execution) public policy reports on higher education. Nice summary by Kevin. Well worth debating both the method and results.

Kevin Denny said...

I agree it is a nice piece of work on an important topic.
One policy implication that the sector in Ireland should take from this is that producing university graduates is something we are good at it and hence should expand. In particular we should look to recruiting more foreign (non-EU) students who will pay handsomely for the education.
Fien Gael produced some policy document along these lines recently: good on them.

Conor Galvin said...

Two observations: Interesting to see another EU sponsored research report drawing so heavily on preceding OECD work. The two seem to be increasingly indistinguishable in their activities and interest around higher education. And all a little ironic in the light of the muck-stirring our newly ex-Minister for Education and Science indulged in before getting kicked upstairs.