Much of the diagnosis of British higher education, past and present, has made frequent use of cataclysmic language. It is not uncommon to perceive the universities as in a state of crisis from which they will recover only if they succeed in radically reshaping themselves (Moberley, 1949; Scott, 1984). Their values, purposes, procedures and structures-not to mention their personnel - are all too frequently seen as ineffective in the light of prevailing circumstances. They need root and branch reform if they are to survive. Such foreboding has never been more sharply pronounced than in the past 20 years as the established system has expanded from elite to mass higher education while finding itself ever more tightly controlled by the dictates of successive governments. Is this a real crisis? Or has it been manufactured by an unholy alliance of government and university interests; the former wanting to soften up the universities in the struggle to make them more amenable to government policy, the latter creating a panic designed to curry public favour in the hope of sustaining their traditional privileges? And what sense does it make to talk of crisis when British universities still retain worldwide prestige.