Feudal system in the books

in Song of Ice and Fire, we have Knight, Lords, Kings, and sometimes (e.g. in the Ironmen) Priests.

Knights are non-hereditary. I think the book said that "any knight can make a knight". In the real world, i think that in some systems it was lik that, but in others only kings can make knights (e.g. in England, at some times:, and maybe in some lords can but not other knights.

Lords are hereditary, and can designate their own successor. It's unclear if lords can make knights, but i assume so. It's unclear if lords can make lords, but i assume not.

Kings can make and unmake lords and presumably knights. Kinghood is for life. Kings are herititary in some systems, but in the Iron Islands there is also a tradition of selecting a new king democratically after the old one dies.

Lords have a hierarchy amongst themselves. The top lords, such as the Lord of Winterfell, report only to the King. The lower lords report as 'bannermen' (vassals) to higher lords (liege). Even when the higher lords rebel, the lower lords may be 'supposed to' support their liege, and it seems that the king mostly forgives them for doing so, provided that they give up (defect to the king) before the end of the battle/war.

Priests seem to have some oversight authority over this process, at least in the Iron Islands.

Night's Watch election

The choosing of the Night's Watch Lord Commander is by a 2/3s majority vote. The downside is that there can be an indeterminate amount of time in between Lord Commanders, during which there appeared to be no decision-making process for long-term decisions; short-term decisions were made via a line of succession.

Maester system

There are 4 ranks, novice, acolyte, maester and archmaester. There are various formally recognized topical areas of study. Each archmaester is the archmaester of a certain topical area.

New students are 'novices'. Novices study various topics (it seems like they can come and go and attend lectures as they please, rather than having specific courses of study) and when they think they are ready, they take a test on a topic. The test is a 1-on-1 oral exam given by the archmaester of that topic. If they pass, they get a certification that they have passed.

At some indeterminate point (presumably when they have been certified in a certain number of topics) novices are raised to acolytes.

At some indeterminate point (presumably when they have been certified in a certain number of topics) acolytes are raised to maesters. At this point they are qualified to take outside jobs (they also have to swear not to hold lands or titles, they give up their family affiliation, and they swear to obey and advise their employer, or whoever takes over their employer).

It is unclear to me how the archmaesters are chosen out of the maesters.

Contrast with the real world U.S. university system. There are three important ranks; bachelors, phd, professor. Students take classes in specific subtopics. Each class has its own test, usually written, created by a professor. If students pass the necessary classes, they get an undergraduate degree. Then they can work on a phd. The first phase of a phd, called a master's, is taking more courses. The rest of the phd is an apprenticeship under one professor during which they do what the professor tells them, but also they try to contribute something novel to the field. Their novel contribution is called their thesis, after which they go before a committee of multiple professors who decide if it's good enough yet. If so they have a phd. The difference between a phd and a professor is whether or not other professors think you are good enough to hire as a professor. So we have: written tests created by professor --> course certification, many course certifications --> subject certification, subject certification --> apprenticeship, apprenticeship + original work --> phd noncompetitive certification by committee of professors, phd + more original work --> competitive tenured professor certification by committee of professors. Note that in the real world U.S. university system, certifications above bachelor are subject-specific, e.g. there is nothing corresponding to the multi-subject maester certification in the books, although in practice a phd has a connotation of 'scholar' in general, and a tenured professor is allowed to work on whatever, and seems to be accorded deference by the general public even outside their area of expertise.