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The purpose of this study is to examine efficiency and its determinants in a set of higher education institutions (HEIs) from several European countries by means of non-parametric frontier techniques. Our analysis is based on a sample of 259 public HEIs from 7 European countries across the time period of 2001–2005. We conduct a two-stage DEA analysis (Simar and Wilson in J Economet 136:31–64, ), first evaluating DEA scores and then regressing them on potential covariates with the use of a bootstrapped truncated regression. Results indicate a considerable variability of efficiency scores within and between countries. Unit size (economies of scale), number and composition of faculties, sources of funding and gender staff composition are found to be among the crucial determinants of these units’ performance. Specifically, we found evidence that a higher share of funds from external sources and a higher number of women among academic staff improve the efficiency of the institution.

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