The Economist featured a special report on universities. Some elements:
On the value added of university education (see this article):
Employers are not much interested in the education universities provide either. Lauren Rivera of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management interviewed 120 recruiters from American law firms, management consultancies and investment banks. Their principal filter was the applicant’s university. Unless he had attended one of the top institutions, he was not even considered. “Evaluators relied so intensely on ‘school’ as a criterion of evaluation not because they believed that the content of elite curricula better prepared students for life in their firms…but because of the perceived rigour of the admissions process,” Ms Rivera wrote. After the status of the institution, recruiters looked not at students’ grades but at their extracurricular activities, preferring the team sports—lacrosse, field-hockey and rowing—favoured by well-off white men.
On rankings (see this article): More than 50 of the top 100 universities (according to the Shanghai ranking) are located in the US. Switzerland has the highest density of these institutions per capita (6.2 top universities per 10m people, next is Sweden before the Netherlands).
On public and private funding (see this article):