Merit is an important value for sustainability, quality, and competitiveness of institutions. In a context of meritocracy, it is often assumed that sycophancy, flattery or ingratiation would not exist, since sycophancy corrodes the merit system. In this study, the higher education institutions, which are regarded as the pioneers of the merit system, are taken as the focal point and the reasons, processes, and results of the sycophancy in the academic life are investigated through a qualitative analysis. Findings from 88 participants indicate that in addition to its widespread and culturally accepted practice among all stakeholders, sycophancy is structurally ignored and even tacitly condoned in academic life. The real life stories and the dimensions of sycophancy that are presented in paper contribute to the theory of sycophancy. In addition to this, the study also aims to serve as a reference for decision-makers in their fight against sycophancy in the modernisation of higher education.