European Journal of Education

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Matching between students and universities: What are the sources of inequalities of access to higher education?

Abstract It is assumed that a perfect balance between student academic achievement and the quality of the university they attend is beneficial both for students and higher education institutions (HEIs). Matching theory predicts the existence of perfect match between the two groups in the absence of transaction costs associated with university enrolment. However, in this study we show cases of mismatch situations in Russia under the Unified State Exam—the standardised student admission mechanism. The reasons for minimal transaction costs and the emergence of unequal access to HEIs were studied. Based on data on Moscow high school graduates who entered university, the determinants of the mismatch between the quality of universities and applicant abilities were assessed. Whilst overall favourable matching results are established, we show that individual student achievement results are subject to the influence of school and family characteristics. Thus, inequality of access can be formed at stages preceding higher education enrolment.

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