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Working paper

Matching between Students and Universities: What are the Sources of Inequalities of Access to Higher Education?

Prakhov I., Sergienko D.
It is assumed that a perfect balance between student academic achievement and university quality is beneficial both for students and higher education institutions (HEIs). Matching theory predicts the existence of perfect matching between the two groups in the absence of transaction costs associated with university enrollment. However, in this study we show cases of mismatch situations in Russia under the Unified State Exam (USE) – the standardized student admission mechanism. This research studies the reasons for this phenomenon for minimal transaction costs and the emergence of unequal access to HEIs. Based on data on Moscow high school graduates who entered university, the determinants of the mismatch between the quality of universities and applicant abilities are assessed. It is shown that although in most cases favorable matching results are established, the individual student achievement results themselves are subject to the influence of school and family characteristics. Thus, inequality of access can be formed at stages preceding HEI enrollment.