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The Barriers Of Access To Elite Higher Education In Russia

Despite the trends of massification of Russian higher education and recently introduced standardized entry exams, university applicants still may face barriers during the process of admission. As a result, they may be admitted to less selective universities, which generally offer low quality education programs as opposed to selective universities. This paper examines the factors which influence student choice of university as measured by the level of university selectivity. We show that university selectivity can be determined not only by the Unified State Exam scores among admitted students (the main criteria of applicant selection in Russia), but by characteristics that are not directly related to the applicants’ abilities: parental education, family income, cultural capital, as well as by features of secondary school (type of school and class specialization) and level of investment in pre-entry coaching. These factors raise questions about equal opportunities for admission and the accessibility of top quality higher education for applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds.