University academics: Demographic, role structure characteristics and attitudes towards merit and equity – A Kenyan case study

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This study examined whether academics at the University of Nairobi (Kenya) would differ in their support for merit versus equity values in student admission based on their demographic and role structure characteristics. The findings indicated that overall academics gave overwhelming support to the use of merit as the admission criterion in higher education while equity received only slight support. In demographic terms, sex, age and ethnicity were significantly associated with attitudes towards equity. With regard to role structure variables, only disciplinary affiliations of the academics were significantly associated with either merit or equity. Faculty in humanities showed significantly lower support for merit than those in social and natural sciences while those in the social sciences showed significantly higher support for equity. It was concluded that the academics, to a considerable degree, display homogeneity of values that center on support for merit. Furthermore, it was deduced that the sex, age, ethnicity and disciplinary affiliation of academics moderate this support for merit. Policy-wise, the results gave a strong reason for recommending for the continuation of merit-based admissions since most academics would likely reject equity-based admission policies. Additionally, it was suggested that policy initiatives aimed at reducing disparities in higher education should be directed at the qualitative improvement of education at the lower levels in order to provide equality of opportunity in the national examinations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-272
Number of pages26
JournalResearch in Post-Compulsory Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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