I left academia many years ago, so my information is second hand – my job is high-tech so I have regular contact with UK and european academics. Also personal contacts. The story that I hear is sufficiently consistent, and is a world away from what I, and I suspect yourself, knew. So I posted. But it is necessarily a generalisation, so if someone else posts with contradictory experiences, fair enough.
The consistent themes are - difficulties doing research due to poor junior workers, not being allowed to fail individuals who lack basic competence, and intake into industry with qualifications which don’t mean anything,
Answers to your questions are partial, and subject to the caveat of limited sampling. Sampling spread across hard sciences, engineering and bio-medical.
'Ivy League’ standards – on non-research degrees, I don’t know. For the ‘second tier’, I do know of compromises. Failing overseas students being a particular problem due to the revenue aspects.
Research degrees. A minority of elite groups that can attract competent Ph.D. students, but the position degrades rapidly outside of these groups. The majority of permanent staff still being high quality, but faced with essentially useless junior staff – the occasional good one, when lucky. Permanent staff then either stress themselves to death trying to maintain quality, or chill out and go with the flow. Inevitably, some useless individuals now rising through the system.
US standards – I don’t know. In terms of junior researchers, I’m told that ex-eastern bloc are good, also chinese although their english can be a problem.
Re-building, if we came to our senses? My view is that it would have to start at the base of the pyramid – literally at primary school level. Set a hard-core academic syllabus, backed by tough examination pass levels. Free schools from government control via voucher system, and let them compete to get pupils through the exams. But then, for university intake, let’s say you are talking 10 years to make any impact, 20 years to get back to where we were. If you want a ten year overlap with competent staff, then you are relying on those now in their 30 s. Otherwise you have to buy in top level people from overseas.
That’s my take on things, for what it’s worth.
PS – reduce the number of academic degrees. Massacre “media studies” departments etc. Strengthen meaningful “ technician “ qualifications.