THE PERFORMANCE OF AUSTRALIAN UNIVERSITIES: CONCEPTUAL ISSUES AND PRELIMINARY RESULTS

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Abstract

Universities in Australia have undergone profound changes over the past fifteen years, primarily as a result of changes in Federal Government policies and the growth in overseas student enrolments. Debate has ensued regarding the effects of these changes upon the productive efficiency of universities, and upon the quality of their outcomes. However, given the non-priced nature of many university outputs, traditional measures of productivity growth (involving revenue weighted outputs) have been unavailable. In this study we obtain measures of productivity growth by applying data envelopment analysis (DEA) methods to annual data relating to thirty-five universities over the 1996 to 2000 period. Discussion in the paper focuses on the conceptual challenges involved in developing measures of university performance that account for both the quantity and quality of the services provided. The empirical results suggest that the sector is relatively efficient and that productivity growth was superior to most sectors of the economy. However, concerns with data quality and availability are noted, and the need for further empirical work is emphasised.

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