Does Expansion Cause Congestion? The Case of the Older British Universities, 1994 to 2004
This paper examines whether the rapid growth in the number of students in British universities in recent years has led to congestion, in the sense that certain universities’ output could have been higher if this expansion had been less rapid. The focus of the paper is on 45 older universities that were in existence prior to 1992. The analysis covers the period 1994/5 to 2003/4. Several alternative methods of measuring congestion are examined and, to check the sensitivity of the results to different specifications, three alternative DEA models are formulated. The results indicate that congestion was present throughout the decade under review, and in a wide range of universities, but whether it rose or fell is uncertain, as this depends on which congestion model is used. A crucial point here is whether one assumes constant or variable returns to scale. Nonetheless, all models point to a rise in congestion between 2001/2 and 2003/4, and this may well be a result of the rapid growth that occurred in this period. All models also record a sharp drop in mean technical efficiency in 2003/4. A possible explanation of the absence of a clear-cut trend in congestion is that the student : staff ratio in these universities was relatively stable in the decade under review, rising only gently from 2000/1 onwards.
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