Meritocracy is the belief that people should achieve a status (e.g. be chosen for a position) based on their abilities rather than wealth or family connections. Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) activities strive to level the playing field so that meritocracy can work. In higher education, so much of what we do is centered on the idea of enabling and promoting meritocracy. According to meritocratic principles, students’ grades should reflect the quality of their achievements, not their backgrounds. Staff promotions should reflect the work they have carried out, not their standing within the university hierarchy. But is this a workable, or even an ideal principle?

Facilitation Notes

Discussion Questions

  • Why does meritocracy seem fair?
  • Why is being highly educated seen as something earned rather than something given
  • Why isn’t luck often considered when people reflect upon their life achievements?
  • If we were to have a completely equal society, how would we tackle genetic differences and their effect on educational attainment? Is it even possible
  • Should universities function under the principles of meritocracy?
  • Could we have educational/occupational opportunities that aren’t based on meritocracy?

Resource Personalisation

You may consider the contextual admissions policy for your organisation.

The Reasons to be Cheerful conversation with Michael Sandel takes place from 11 – 50 mins. 

Culture Club.