Encyclopedia of International Higher Education Systems and Institutions

Living Edition
| Editors: Pedro Nuno Teixeira (Editor-in-Chief), Jung-Cheol Shin (Editor-in-Chief)

Access to Higher Education, Affirmative Action

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9553-1_49-1



Affirmative action refers to the use of preferences favoring individuals in a particular group when making a choice between candidates. In regards to higher education, it refers to preferences in admissions decisions, i.e., being more likely to choose students from a certain group over others, all else equal. Framed more broadly, affirmative action is a policy focused on creating differential processes or applying different standards in order to promote more equal access to higher education opportunity. The preferences that receive the most attention are those for specific racial or ethnic groups, but affirmative action policies could alternatively be tailored to favor other student traits, such as low-income status (i.e., “economic” affirmative action). Additionally, college admissions committees have been shown to show preferences for students with legacy status (having a parent or other relative who has attended the institution),...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard Graduate School of EducationCambridgeUSA