Aside: the triangle is also discussed in other contexts such as health care.
There is a nice essay
Breaking Higher Education's Iron Triangle: Access, Cost, and Quality
by John Daniel, Asha Kanwar, and Stamenka Uvalic-Trumbic
It partly focusses on the important and complex issue of the massive expansion and aspirations of university education in the majority world. But many of the issues apply to all countries.
One of the concrete proposals for evaluating/ensuring quality is separating examinations from teaching institutions. Common exams would be administered by independent authorities/companies [think GRE, Cambridge A-levels, TOEFL, ...]. I think the advantages of this are considerable
- uniform standards
- public accountability
- freedom from grade inflation and student whining
- faculty would be seen by students as allies rather than adversaries
The first author Sir John Daniel, was head of Open University in the UK for a decade. It pioneered distance learning. Hence, he is qualified to talk about the recent fashion in MOOC's [Massive Online Courses]. A recent paper is reviewed here and contains the following wisdom:
With regard to institutional measures of teaching quality he warns: