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Evaluating the performance of higher education institutions in Europe: A non-parametric efficiency analysis of 944 institutions

Conference contribution
Authors Ann Veiderpass
Maureen McKelvey
Published in Efficiency in Education Workshop 19th – 20th September 2014 at The Work Foundation, London, U.K.., 2014 ( 9 ) s. 1-22
Volume 2014
Issue 9
Pages 1-22
Publication year 2014
Published at Department of Economics
Pages 1-22
Language en
Keywords Higher education institutions, OECD countries, technical efficiency, non-parametric analysis, EUMIDA database
Subject categories Economics, Research policy


Although a long tradition exists of studying the economics of education, performance comparisons of different kinds have traditionally been difficult to undertake. An important impediment has been the lack of comparable data. Tertiary education is no exception and data availability has proven to be problematic in several respects. Thus, early studies focused on traditional universities although higher education institutions (HEIs) represent a diverse group of organizations providing education. Apart from the difficulty of including different types of education providers, the field has also faced the problem of country comparison. At best, researchers have been able to access data within one country or a handful of countries. To a large extent, this study remedies the shortcomings of earlier studies. The study suggests evaluating HEI performance in a production theory context, applying the well-known Data Envelopment Analysis method to a cross section of 944 HEIs in 17 European countries. The DEA approach is particularly suitable in this context where little is known about production technologies and economic behaviour of the HEIs. Our country comparison is based on a large database, developed by the EUMIDA consortium. The consortium developed a census about basic indicators of HEI inputs and outputs. Experts from each country gathered data from national statistics offices, ministries and specific universities and then harmonized the appropriate data according to the agreed upon definitions of indicators. The data collection includes all HEIs which grant postgraduate and graduate education. Hence, the EUMIDA database offers unique micro-data about decision-making units in the higher education sector across Europe. On average, provision of education is found to be most efficient in the Slovak Republic followed by Belgium and Latvia, while Denmark and Norway display the lowest efficiency. The study also indicates a positive relation between high efficiency and research intensity.

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