Friday, September 11, 2015

College is certainly no ordinary commodity...

A friend shared this on Facebook back in June, but I've scheduled this post for now because it seems relevant to those starting university this month or next.

It's an interesting piece because, rather than simply attacking the idea that college should be seen as an economic investment, it makes the point that what you get out of education largely depends on what you put in. Though students are consumers, lecturers cannot simply pocket their fees and force an education into their heads.

I sometimes use an analogy (not my own) with gym membership. Paying a subscription to a gym doesn't magically make you fitter and healthier - it provides you with opportunities to use the facilities, but you still have to work to make the most of it. So it is with university: there are many opportunities available to students at any university, but students have a responsibility to make the most of them.

This is one reason why it's difficult to rank universities based on results - those results depend not only on the 'service providers' but also the 'service consumers'.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Queues, Fairness, and Efficiency

When a scarce good has to be allocated, 'first come, first served' is often considered a decent allocative principle. According to a recent study, however, this is inefficient because of the time wasted. Adopting the principle 'last-in, first-served' - provided everyone knows this - is more efficient, because people will stagger their arrival times.

The brief BBC report - here - also mentions the possibility of picking people from the 'queue' at random. I don't see a link in the report, but it seems to be based on 'The curse of first-in-first-out queue discipline', available as a working paper here, so it's an unpublished finding as far as I'm aware. I've not had chance to read the paper yet, but it sounds interesting.