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The governance and performance of universities: evidence from Europe and the US


  • Philippe Aghion
  • Mathias Dewatripont
  • Caroline Hoxby
  • Andreu Mas-Colell
  • André Sapir


"We test the hypothesis that universities are more productive when they are both more autonomous and face more competition. Using survey data, we construct indices of university autonomy and competition for both Europe and the United States. We show that there are strong positive correlations between these indices and multiple measures of university output. To obtain causal evidence, we investigate exogenous shocks to US universities' expenditures over three decades. These shocks arise through the political appointment process, which we use to generate instrumental variables. We find that an exogenous increase in a university's expenditure generates more output, measured by either patents or publications, if the university is more autonomous and faces more competition. Exploiting variation over time in the 'stakes' of competitions for US federal research grants, we also find that universities generate more output for a given expenditure when research competitions are high stakes. We draw lessons, arguing that European universities could benefit from a combination of greater autonomy and greater accountability. Greater accountability might come through increased reliance on competitive grants, enhanced competition for students and faculty (promoted by reforms that increase mobility), and yardstick competitions (which often take the form of assessment exercises)." Copyright (c) CEPR, CES, MSH, 2010.

Suggested Citation

  • Philippe Aghion & Mathias Dewatripont & Caroline Hoxby & Andreu Mas-Colell & André Sapir, 2010. "The governance and performance of universities: evidence from Europe and the US," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 25, pages 7-59, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ecpoli:v:25:y:2010:i::p:7-59

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bronwyn H. Hall & Adam B. Jaffe & Manuel Trajtenberg, 2001. "The NBER Patent Citation Data File: Lessons, Insights and Methodological Tools," NBER Working Papers 8498, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Sapir, Andre & Aghion, Philippe & Bertola, Giuseppe & Hellwig, Martin & Pisani-Ferry, Jean & Rosati, Dariusz & Vinals, Jose & Wallace, Helen, 2004. "An Agenda for a Growing Europe: The Sapir Report," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199271498, June.
    3. James D. Adams, 2002. "Comparative localization of academic and industrial spillovers," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 2(3), pages 253-278, July.
    4. Thursby, Jerry & Fuller, Anne W. & Thursby, Marie, 2009. "US faculty patenting: Inside and outside the university," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 14-25, February.
    5. repec:cup:apsrev:v:55:y:1961:i:02:p:345-357_12 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. André Sapir & Philippe Aghion & Mathias Dewatripont & Caroline Hoxby & Andreu Mas-Colell, 2007. "Why reform Europe's universities," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/8100, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    7. Manfred M. Fischer & Attila Varga, 2003. "Spatial knowledge spillovers and university research: Evidence from Austria," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 37(2), pages 303-322, May.
    8. repec:cup:apsrev:v:67:y:1973:i:03:p:889-905_14 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. repec:cup:apsrev:v:60:y:1966:i:02:p:366-373_12 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Anselin, Luc & Varga, Attila & Acs, Zoltan, 1997. "Local Geographic Spillovers between University Research and High Technology Innovations," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 422-448, November.
    11. Jaffe, Adam B, 1989. "Real Effects of Academic Research," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(5), pages 957-970, December.
    12. A. Abigail Payne, 2003. "The Effects of Congressional Appropriation Committee Membership on the Distribution of Federal Research Funding to Universities," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 41(2), pages 325-345, April.
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