This paper explores how an individual's participation in higher education is dependent on her religious affiliations, socio-economic status and demographic characteristics. It argues that an appropriate measure of "deficits" in participation should inform the nature and scope of affirmative action. The study emphasises the relevance, both for analytical examination and in policy formulation, of distinguishing between stock and flow measures of participation and of recognising the differences (or imbalances) in the eligibility for higher education across groups. On isolating the effect of socio-religious affiliation from other factors that may influence participation in higher education, what emerges is a suggestion that the deficits faced by some marginalised groups are not substantial. If reservation policy for these groups is to be justified only on the basis of low participation, it may require a review.