Ken Mayhew, 25 April 2017

Higher education authorities are concerned about the implications of Brexit for the income and international standing of UK universities – the possible reduction in the numbers of EU students and staff and the loss of EU research funding. This column explores these threats and argues that there may be real cause for concern among lower ranking institutions faced by the perfect storm of Brexit, a general toughening of immigration rules, and greater competition promised in the UK government’s recent White Paper on higher education. 

Anna Valero, John Van Reenen, 10 November 2016

Growth in higher education has been driven by the view that human capital is essential for economic and social progress. This column uses a comprehensive international dataset covering 78 countries to show that on average, a 10% increase in the number of universities (roughly adding one more university to the average region in the data) increases a region’s income by 0.4%, with additional effects spilling over to other regions within the same country. In the UK context, the benefits of university expansion are likely to far outweigh the costs.

Sandra Black, Amy Filipek, Jason Furman, Laura Giuliano, Ayushi Narayan, 04 August 2016

Student debt has been rapidly rising in the US over the last 20 years. This column explores how this rise is affecting borrowers and the economy today. With the college earnings premium near historical levels, student loans facilitate excellent investments on average, and most borrowers are paying down their debt with little risk to the overall economy. However, borrowers who attend low quality schools or fail to complete a degree face real challenges with repayment. 

Scott Carrell, Mark Hoekstra, Elira Kuka, 25 April 2016

Bad behaviour by peers is well-known to worsen educational outcomes in the short run. This column investigates the long-run effects of peers from families marked by domestic violence. Individual-level US data linking middle and high school test scores, college enrolment, and earnings at ages 24–28 show that students exposed to more disruptive peers experience worse adult outcomes. Policies that mitigate exposure to disruptive peers could pay high dividends.

Jeffrey Brown, Chichun Fang, Francisco Gomes, 23 March 2015

College-educated workers are less likely to experience unemployment, but their lifetime earnings are also much more uncertain. This column estimates the risk-adjusted value of college education to be between $225,000 and almost $600,000, corresponding to risk-adjusted increases in total present-value lifetime wealth of 35% to 48%. Increased earnings volatility actually decreased the risk-adjusted value of college between 1968–1980 and 1991–2011 by almost $50,000, even though expected lifetime income increased by about $150,000. Nevertheless, even the most conservative estimates of the value of college education are still positive.

Ian Fillmore, 04 March 2015

Colleges in the US charge high sticker prices but routinely offer discounts to individual students. This column presents research showing that colleges use a student’s federal aid form to learn about willingness-to-pay and to engage in substantial price discrimination in a way that amounts to a tax on income, with the primary effect of increasing tuition revenues. Nevertheless, the price discrimination also results in some redistribution to low-income students as well as a modest increase in student–college match quality.

Amanda Goodall, John McDowell, Larry Singell, 31 January 2014

Much of human knowledge is produced in the world’s university departments, yet little is known about how these hundreds of thousands of departments are best organised and led. This column explores the association between the personal research output of a department head and the department’s subsequent performance. Results suggest that if a department wants to improve its reputation in the world, then the chair should be a highly cited researcher.

Daniel Sgroi, 11 November 2013

In the upcoming UK Research Excellence Framework, a small panel of academics are tasked with rating thousands of academic submissions, which will result in university departments being ranked and public money being distributed. Given the enormity of the task and the scarcity of the resources devoted to it, this article discusses a straightforward procedure that might help, based on exactly the Bayesian methods that academic economists study and teach when considering the problem of decision-making under uncertainty.

John McCormack, Carol Propper, Sarah Smith, 07 November 2013

The conventional wisdom is that managing academics is futile. This column challenges this view by comparing management performance in UK universities with measures of research and teaching quality. Universities with better management have better performance. This holds for all types of universities, and the results are not driven by differences in resources. Recruitment, retention, and promotion are the most important aspects of management in universities, but management at the level of academic departments – not human resources departments – is what matters.

David Hummels, Rasmus Jørgensen, Jakob Munch, Chong Xiang, 10 December 2011

With stagnating wages and lingering unemployment, income inequality is back in the headlines. Is globalisation to blame for this inequality? Is more education a solution? This column argues that focusing on university education misses important effects. It presents evidence that wage effects vary markedly among those with degrees depending on their specific skill sets, and that globalisation can often benefit workers without degrees

Philippe Belley, Marc Frenette, Lance Lochner, 24 September 2011

As scores of young men and women wave goodbye to their parents and prepare to start their university educations, this column asks whether providing more financial aid would increase the number of students enrolling from the poorest backgrounds. It looks at data from the US and Canada to see if the differences in funding for disadvantaged students can explain some of the differences in educational and social outcomes between the two countries.

Ben Wildavsky, 12 November 2010

Ben Wildavsky of the Kauffman Foundation talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his book ‘The Great Brain Race: How global universities are reshaping the world’. Among other things, they discuss higher education funding and student finance, the rapidly growing international mobility of students and faculty, and the potential problem of ‘academic protectionism’. The interview was recorded at the London School of Economics in October 2010. [Also read the transcript]

Catherine Haeck, Frank Verboven, 17 June 2010

How does a university organise its hiring and promotion policy? This column presents evidence on the personnel policy of a large European university. It suggests that the university is organised as an internal labour market, and while promotion dynamics depend on research and teaching performance, persistent administrative rigidities remain.

Romina Boarini, Joaquim Oliveira Martins, 24 September 2008

OECD governments spend a lot on education, but are their investments paying off? This column analyses how public policy affects individuals’ decisions to invest in education and identifies opportunities for reform.

Yao Amber Li , John Whalley, Shunming Zhang , Xiliang Zhao, 18 April 2008

Unlike most developing economies, China’s educational policy focuses on upgrading higher education. This column summarises the major transformation occurring in China – including nearly a quintupling in enrolments – and highlights its implications for the global economy.

Dan Ben-David, 14 March 2008

This second column on Israeli academic migration to the United States examines the differences in higher education policies that are driving the brain drain.

Frank Verboven, Stijn Kelchtermans, 08 October 2007

As most governments are still reluctant to raise private contributions through tuition fees, instead they have taken measures to reduce the wide duplication of study programmes across a large number of campuses. The authors of CEPR DP6508 study the welfare and profit effects of dropping duplicated programmes at individual institutions and find that this tends to be socially undesirable, due to limited cost savings and students’ relatively low mobility.