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Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences
The article proves that education inequality is inevitable and, at the same time, looks at ways of mitigating such inequality. We review the development of education inequality throughout history. Education inequality is commonly linked to an objective and insurmountable discrepancy that lies at the very foundation of the learning process. This discrepancy is the conflict between personal and social interest, as education makes it justifiable for society to intrude into individuals’ private life. The concept of equal education opportunities is seen as one of the key values of a democratic society. Following the industrial revolution, as well as a series of political revolutions, Western society is building a new structure, which leads to a major evolution of the very institutions of education. Elite-oriented education was not consistent with the needs of the emerging industrial society. The demand for a qualified labor force would grow faster than the supply of educated people offered by the elite. We consider the ideal of an egalitarian society, where all social and economic groups enjoy equal education opportunities and conditions. But so far, it has been impossible to achieve universal equality, even in a single specific aspect of society’s spiritual life. In any case, high-quality professional education still remains one of the absolute values of the elite. It helps the elite retain its dominance in society. Elite education is viewed as something that should remain inaccessible to the masses. In some cases, elite education may be defined as education that is modeled specifically for the elites or for particularly talented students (who can be selected from the lower social classes). Therefore, the chief feature of an elite education institution is its focus solely on preparing the students for working in privileged sectors of the economy and other prestigious fields (such as science or culture). We analyze a number of higher professional education models, looking at the correlation between its quality and accessibility. We also offer a new approach to the methodology of rating higher education institutions, based on classifying them by such parameters as: proclaimed goals, type of property ownership, funding sources, and accessibility.
vocational training, education quality assurance, access to education, universities ranking