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Europe's University Challenge

The university systems in the US and Continental Europe couldn't be more different. Which works better? The answer is clear: America's by a long shot.

European universities are generally based on three misguided principles:

  • taxpayers rather than students pay for university education;
  • faculty appointments are governed by public sector contracts and university procedures are often centralized and almost always inflexible;
  • salaries amongst teachers tend to be equalized as well as teaching quality amongst universities.

This system is supposedly more egalitarian than America's system of higher education, which many Europeans look down on as elitist. In reality, Europe's system typically produces less research, worse students (especially at the doctoral level), and is probably less egalitarian than the US system.

Having taxpayers cover the costs of university education is indeed redistributive, but in the wrong direction--the beneficiaries are most often the children of comfortable European families. Even taking a generous view, the best that can be said is that the system is neutral insofar as redistribution is concerned, because the wealthiest pay more taxes and use more university services.