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Economic Explanations of the Behaviour of Universities and Scholars

  • Arthur M. Diamond

Surveys, from an American perspective, the existing literature on economic explanations of the behaviour of universities and scholars. The modern literature is put in historical perspective introduced by a brief discussion of the positions of two of the earliest and most distinguished contributors to the literature: Adam Smith and Max Weber. Discusses the human capital and implicit contracts literatures of the behaviour of scholars, the latter elaborated in terms of the issue of tenure. The most common theoretical economic analysis of the university is the view that it is best thought of as a non-profit organization. Discusses variants of this view, with special attention to the literature on rent-seeking in academe. Goes on to the empirical literature on the economics of academe in the areas of academic institutions, academic earnings functions, the earnings and status of minority scholars and academic production functions. Briefly considers the relevance of the current literature to the Althoff system, suggesting that Althoff's able, trusted advisers, and his system of institutes, may have allowed him to avoid several inefficiences that have been identified by economists as present in other academic institutions. Although the centralization of decision making in the hands of one decision maker may be efficient if the decision maker is exceptionally able, more commonly the most efficient system will be a decentralized system that allows for greater diversity and competition. Concludes with a discussion of how hypotheses on the efficiency (and fairness) of various aspects of the Althoff system could, in principle, be tested.

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Article provided by Emerald Group Publishing in its journal Journal of Economic Studies.

Volume (Year): 20 (1993)
Issue (Month): 4/5 (September)
Pages: 107-133

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Handle: RePEc:eme:jespps:v:20:y:1993:i:4/5:p:107-133
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