E. Grunt, N. Antonova

Ural Federal University (RUSSIAN FEDERATION)
Over the past few decades, there has been a sharp increase in the number of students admitted to higher education in Russia. Does this fact mean that there is an increase in the accessibility of higher education for different social groups? Rather, it is due to the fact that today there is a process of higher education commoditization, when higher education becomes a commodity, and the university provides the future student with an educational service. The process of higher education commoditization leads to three consequences: firstly, to the massivization of education; secondly, to its accessibility, first of all, for high-income groups of the population; thirdly, to an increase of social inequality in the society.

At the same time, the accessibility of education does not become goals in and of themselves, but it appears as an integral part and an important factor in ensuring the social integrity and stability of the state. Equality in education fits into a broader perspective of socio-economic equality, contributing to overall economic growth, a more stable and harmonious development of society as a whole. The major research objective was to analyze the higher education entry barriers (financial, territorial, institutional, etc.) for various social groups of Russians.

The research methodology combines both quantitative and qualitative approaches. The primary data was collected using questionnaires and in-depth-interviews. 500 first-year universities’ students in the Sverdlovsk region were questioned on the basis of quota sampling. In depth-interviews (5) were organized for the educators engaged in the system of higher education.
Findings and discussion. The study has revealed that one of the most important higher education entry barriers in contemporary Russia is the financial possibility of a future student / his / her parents. The majority of the respondents (80%) believe that the financial prosperity of the family increases the chances of entering the university, since along with free appropriate public education there is also a fee paid education.

A personal fortune of school graduates also plays a significant role as well as entering the university and his/her successful graduating. The personal fortune includes, first of all, school progress, and also getting a supplementary education which expands possible directions of educational trajectories spectrum.

In the opinion of freshmen, the quality of education at school (the advantages are enjoyed by graduates of gymnasiums and specialized schools), its location (the quality of school education in rural areas is lower than that in the city), and additional classes of graduates with a tutor or attending specialized courses are important entry barriers of higher education in modern Russia.

Our study has revealed the issue of inequality in access to higher education and its entry barriers. Low-income groups are becoming socially vulnerable groups. Aligning the chances of entering the university is due to the introduction of a unified state examination, but the quality of school education, as well as the availability of additional educational services for rural schoolchildren is lower than that of schoolchildren living in the city.