I have a friend that does education research and we've talked about this a lot. For me, a university is almost completely useless. I have no problem making friends, I'm self-motivated in my intellectual pursuits, and I learn best by doing rather than listening. So from my perspective it's really easy to assume that universities are basically a profiteering racket, and in a lot of ways they in fact are.
But for a lot of people universities provide the only exposure that they will get to a lot of intellectual domains. Most people will never do any higher level math outside of a classroom, will never read philosophy outside of a classroom, will never read world literature outside of a classroom, will never do an empirical experiment outside of a classroom, will never read world history outside of a classroom... the list goes on and on.
So in terms of efficiency, the university system is a joke, but in terms of forcing people to approach things that they don't want to approach, there aren't any real alternatives.
As test-fetishism turns most universities into shallow stick-and-carrot degree factories the value of approaching those subjects is largely diminished, but that isn't inherent to the university model, and has more to do with distributing privilege to a handful of people at the expense of everyone else. This is a problem with capitalism more than a problem with the university model. When only a handful of people went to college, those colleges could get on with educating and the distribution of privilege didn't play a factor, because privilege was already adequately distributed by other means (race, economic standing, gender, what have you.) Since there has been a very strong push to send everyone to college, the distribution of privilege has become a function of the university system, and now they operate as gatekeepers of privilege, which really isn't a role that they should play (they should take in the students that they take in and teach them as much as they can; letting other forces operate on privilege.) The reason universities have turned into gatekeepers of privilege is the unseemly relationship between universities and corporations. Mass education and economic gain are not necessarily aligned with one another, but if they become aligned, universities will necessarily operate as gatekeepers of privilege.
Universities have become an instrument of corporations because people get degrees in an effort to appeal to potential employers and this has the adverse effect of pushing universities to gear themselves towards the interests of corporations, to appeal to potential students (the three-way relationship between employers, universities, and students/employees could be discussed at length, but this is the gist of it.)
And so the problem arises therein, but again, it's principally a failing of capitalism (there are only a handful of "good" positions in society that everyone is fighting for) and is not inherent to the university model itself (which should attempt to educated everyone as much as possible, rather than just the top few.)