While quota-based and other affirmative actions remain on the policy radar of nations faced with social inequalities, there is limited evidence informing policy choices at the national level. This paper estimates the mid-term impact of quota-based affirmative action in higher education (HE) in India implemented from 2008, which mandates that 27 per cent of seats are to be reserved for the Other Backward Classes (OBC) in public funded institutions of HE. Exploiting the differences in participation across social groups, age cohort,s and geographies with varied histories of affirmative action, our triple difference method estimates the impact of the Act by the year 2011–2012. Our results indicate that southern and northcentral states that already had quotas in place for a fairly long period of time, do not contribute much in further expansion of enrolment of OBCs; instead, the eastern region, where such a policy did not exist for long has about 0.12 points improvement in enrolment. Our estimates are robust to different specifications and the impact seems to be non-existent amongst the richest. It suggests that future policy initiatives need to be more nuanced considering regional differences in policy histories, supply of institutions, and extant rates of HE participation of the disadvantaged sections. © 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.