This article examines the outcomes of affirmative action policies aimed at improving access for women students to university education in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Different interpretations of affirmative action are found in the three countries. These include lower entry scores, remedial pre-university programmes and financial assistance. There are limitations and weaknesses inherent in the piecemeal strategies that focus only on the point of admission to university. Thus affirmative action as currently applied does not enhance access and gender equity in university education. A multifaceted approach to developing gender equality in universities would require various strategies to support one another in order to enhance access and gender equity in university education in the three countries.