Patronage, expansively conceived as covering all forms of bias and discrimination, is pervasive in organisations and professions, including academia. Four key types of academic patronage operate through decisions made, processes used, assistance given to individuals and personal interactions. Some forms of patronage, especially discrimination on the basis of sex and ethnicity, have come under sustained criticism and are officially stigmatised. However, policies for equal opportunity and against conflicts of interest have only begun to address more personal forms of patronage. Some forms of patronage, such as supporting one's research students, are common and treated as normal; systems without such patronage would seem strange. Looking at patronage in a broad sense can be useful in highlighting abuses that escape the usual lenses of anti-discrimination.