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Academic Literacies

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Michael Young first coined the term “meritocracy” in 1958. Australians are particularly inclined towards the idea of being meritocratic. Meritocracy, in recent definitions, is the philosophy of providing rewards and benefits to the person having the most suitable ability, qualification and talent (Erman & Walton, 2014). From 1850s, the Australian government started establishing public universities with the intention of encouraging meritocracy by providing proper training and qualifications. In the beginning, the service was only extended to the males of the urban middle class society. It gradually started to include graduates of different religious, regional and social background, then women and racial minorities. However, some studies suggest that Australia is not that meritocratic as it thinks itself to be. Being unmeritocratic means providing rewards to people who are already privileged. This essay intends to show if Australia is at all meritocratic or not, focusing specially on the context of female meritocracy levels, with the help of relevant theories and researches (Arora, 2016).

Meritocratic or Non-Meritocratic

Several Anglophone Countries like England, Australia, and United States have implemented the policies to get access to higher education. The government policies regarding such concerns are mainly highlighting the improvement of the social mobility, meritocracy, and social inclusion (Ragusa & Groves, 2012). In considering such initiatives, it is notified that the people from diversified background will be able to access the higher education programme in a better way (Catherine Hill, 2016). It is noted that the equity policy in the Australian tertiary education is classified into several divisions, such as vocational sector, training sector, educational sector, and higher education field. Australians are much fond of the ideas that defines the meritocracy and synonymous with fairness. The maintenance of the equality is necessary in order to strengthen the national reputation and national character. In fact, each of the citizens seeks preferences for the students of all background and diversified genders.

However, Luke Sayers, the CEO of PwC Australia presented his argument over such discrepancy that is foreseen in the higher education process. He exclaimed that whereas meritocracy defines the distribution of merits to all sector of the population, it also signifies several flaws in the system (Ragusa & Groves, 2012). In fact, it is also notified that the process is not doing the expected justice while considering the richly diverse tapestry that is offered by the Australian community ("Australian Social Trends, Sep 2012", 2016). However, it is a wide spread view that has become the major concern in other country. Accordingly, if pointing out the Australian education system, it can be seen that several challenges are still the major obstacles. Especially, the discrimination is found in educating the women in the country, the lack of meritocracy has become one of the prominent features.

Firstly, it is predicted that the higher education should be distributed by ignoring entire demographic barriers. The quality will then be considered as “merit”. According to Wheelan (2016), meritocracy is usually influenced by the level playing field. If concentrated on the previous scenario, it can be noted that the leaders were selected by depending on the merit. Moreover, the number of women selected as the leaders was very less. This discrimination is clearly stating that the eligible women for such leadership positions are usually excluded. Another most prominent challenge faced in this merit process is based on the potentiality of the performance (Cuervo, 2012). Women were excluded from this criterion, which signifies the biggest discrimination. If concentrated on the statistical report in the year of 2014, it is seen that almost 40% of the boards of companies, which are listed under ASX, excluded women. It was seen that almost 3.5% of the females were seen with a huge margin of the gender pay gap (, 2015).

In comparing such merit process of other countries, the women receive equal positions at every institution. However, in Australia, this ratio division is different. Such issues regarding the diversified merit process has become the major concern in the country. In this current scenario, it is noted that the Prime Minister appointed five female candidates as the cabinet members and defence minister for the first time. Therefore, the argument continues regarding the meritocracy in Australia. Malcolm Turnbull also presented the argument that in this current time, the line-up is completely decided on the basis of merit. Sayers, in such regards, expressed his opposed views. He stated, “Clearly, it’s not a level playing field for women, people from diverse cultural backgrounds or anyone else who doesn’t fit the mould of a leader that is ingrained in our cultures, or institutions, our systems, and our processes” (, 2015). Such statement over the merit process is quite argumentative in concerning the trend of meritocracy in the country. He also pointed out that if the education system needs to overcome the problem, the first and foremost step is to eliminate the thought of bias-free merit process. It is clearly portrayed as the major and most significant barrier to diversity.

The above discussion is thus highlighting that the higher education process maintained in Australian university requires look beyond the bias-free meritocracy. It is important to mention that the technical and further education institutes in Australia have undertaken several initiatives regarding the distribution of equal place to males and females (Ragusa & Groves, 2012). The higher education will thus be provided to all diversified candidates. Therefore, the future job oriented positions will be provided to both the men and women equally. The emergence of the vocational education is also creating the platform for high education.

Studies show that women graduates have a propensity of showing more participation in the labor force if they have a high school qualification, compared to those without a non-school certification.  Women’s participation increased with the standard of the non-school certification obtained. Age also plays an important role, as younger women are more inclined to toil and attain proper education and training for any particular role ("Australian Social Trends, Sep 2012", 2016). In addition, qualified women have a tendency of remaining employed than less qualified women. The ABS survey on education and work conducted in 2011 shows that 84 per cent of highly qualified women are employed compared to 62 per cent without non-school qualification. Australia’s overall improvement in the education structure, the level of education in the population and the better employment condition shows that they are pro-meritocracy (Norton, 2012). In addition, women have progressed and are doing better than men are.

Qualifications attained by the young people in present day Australia provide the trainings required for a particular vocation to better their career goals. Policy makers think that providing better vocational trainings to the unadvantaged, the unprivileged, and the indigenous population, especially women, would provide them with a chance to grow and access knowledge that would supply them with personal and professional benefits both. The difference in the salaries and jobs comes because men are more inclined to graduate in high ranked fields, like engineering, compared to women, who are more bent to graduate in middle ranked domains like teaching (Todd & Preston, 2012). The indigenous people of Australia have been forever deprived. However, improving conditions of the education sector and the job market opportunities are opening new gateways for them too. Other than the indigenous and deprived scholars, immigrant students are also receiving better opportunities. They are even utilizing these opportunities and performing well, and sometimes better than the local students (Donnelly, 2015). Even the universities are including diverse subjects in their curriculum as they consider it their responsibility to maintain equity and encourage meritocracy (Scott, 2015). While even now some gender disparities in the sorts of non-school qualifications attained by the male and female population are there, the growing number of females who take on further education has received many profits for both the female population and the Australian employment market.


The whole essay approaches meritocracy to understand if it is present in Australia or not, and how much the universities are following this philosophy in the context of women scholars. It was found that meritocracy is widely accepted and followed in Australia. Conditions for women have improved, as they are receiving more job opportunities de the pursuing of higher education in diverse domains. The higher education process maintained in Australian university requires look beyond the bias-free meritocracy. Institutes in Australia have undertaken several initiatives and development programs to initiate better distribution of equal place to males and females. In comparing such merit oriented processes undertaken, the women are receiving equal positions at every institution, compared to past situations. Higher education will thus be provided to all kinds of candidates, even the ethnic minorities and the indigenous people in Australia. Therefore, the future job oriented positions will be provided to both the men and women equally. The emergence of the vocational education is also creating the platform for high education. This is, in turn, generating better job opportunities for all graduates, and improving the labour market condition of Australia.


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Arora, N. (2016). Meritocracy in Education: An Implicit Theory Perspective., (2015). This CEO reveals the two biggest problems behind Australia's meritocracy. [online] Business Insider Australia. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 Sep. 2016].

Catherine Hill, P., (2016). Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. [online] AAUW: Empowering Women Since 1881. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Sep. 2016].

Cuervo, H. (2012). From egalitarianism to meritocracy: The spatial metamorphosis of social justice in youth transition to adulthood. In The Second ISA Forum of Sociology (August 1-4, 2012). Isaconf.

Donnelly, D. (2015). Australia's great divide: who values education. The Age. Retrieved 21 September 2016, from

Erman, S., & Walton, G. M. (2014). Stereotype Threat and Antidiscrimination Law: Affirmative Steps to Promote Meritocracy and Racial Equality in Education. S. Cal. L. Rev., 88, 307.

Norton, A. (2012). Mapping Australian higher education. Carlton, Victoria, Australia: Grattan Institute. Retrieved June, 12, 2012.

Ragusa, A. T., & Groves, P. (2012). Gendered Meritocracy? Women Senior Counsels in Australia's legal profession'. Australian Journal of Gender and Law, 1, 1-18.

Scott, P. (2015). Meritocracy is in retreat in 21st-century higher education | Peter Scott. the Guardian. Retrieved 21 September 2016, from

Todd, P., & Preston, A. (2012). Gender pay equity in Australia: where are we now and where are we heading?. Australian Bulletin of Labour, 38(3), 251.

Wheelan, L., (2016). ‘College for all’ in Anglophone countries – meritocracy or social inequality? An Australian example. Taylor and Francis Online, 21(1).

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