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Working paper

Regional Accessibility of Higher Education in Russia

Despite the unified system of admission to universities in Russia, applicants can still face unequal access to higher education. This can lead to an inefficient choice of the educational strategy and result in the increased inequality. This paper analyzes the barriers which restrict the interregional accessibility of higher education in the context of the Unified State Exam (USE). We propose an analytical model, reflecting the influence of channels such as family, school characteristics, and place of birth, on the educational strategies of youth. We assume that these factors affect the likelihood of being enrolled at university both directly and indirectly through USE scores. Given the unequal regional economic development and the differences in educational opportunities, we argue that university choice can be limited for certain cohorts of applicants, depending on their place of origin, because of differences in the magnitude of the barriers. An empirical examination of the model, based on data from the longitudinal study ‘Trajectories in education and careers’, shows that students from Moscow or Moscow Region are most likely to enroll at university, since they face the lowest barriers. The problem of the accessibility of higher education is more acute for residents of large cities or regional capitals: their likelihood of matriculating is limited by a large number of factors (cognitive abilities, SES, school characteristics). Residents of other settlements (small towns or villages), are least likely to be admitted to university, facing the highest barriers and gender inequality.