Affirmative action, in the form of reservation policies, to address the issues of inclusion has been in place in India for a long time. While its scope has enlarged with inclusion of new social groups, the efficacy remains a matter of debate. This paper explores if parental education is an appropriate criterion for affirmative action. Empirical results using three rounds of the National Sample Survey data suggest that parental education as a determinant of participation in higher education not only transcends the impact of caste, religious, and economic status, it is also very attractive for the ease of implementation. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.