IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Student to degree mismatch: the role of schools, and the impact of disruption from COVID-19

This research project will examine the impact of school, social economic status and COVID-19 on student to degree mismatch.

This project will examine the impact of exam cancellations on student to course mismatch. It will look at the characteristics of mismatched students (by school type and socioeconomic status) in 2020 versus 2019.

The research will provide new evidence on the consequences of mismatch for degree outcomes, describing the potential impact on equity and mobility.

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), this research is a partnership between IOE, the Centre for Economic Performance at LSE and the University of Surrey.

The project will run from March 2021 until August 2022.  


A level grades are crucial in determining how students match with university courses. Previous research by the team finds lower socioeconomic status (SES) students are more likely to 'undermatch' - attending less selective courses than expected given their A level grades - and less likely to overmatch (the reverse).

This matters for social mobility since attending a higher-tariff course leads to higher future earnings. In 2020, A levels were cancelled due to COVID-19, and most students received Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs), predicted by teachers.

Research shows that high SES and private school students receive more generous predictions.They also have better information, advice and guidance, a key driver of attending higher-tariff courses.

Meanwhile, universities were expanding places over fears of fewer overseas students attending, numbers caps were abandoned, and they were legally obliged to accept students they made offers to.

This perfect storm could advantage high SES students, impacting the extent of mismatch, and the SES gap. 


Principal Investigator



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