INTRODUCTION 'Change', said Disraeli, 'is inevitable. In a progressive country, change is constant'.1 To those who have been heads of departments and schools in universities in Britain over the last ten years or so, Disraeli's comment may raise a wry smile. Change has been constant and inevitable but it may be questioned whether it has all contributed to progress in higher education. There have been instructions to expand, to maintain a steady state and, more recently, penalties for exceeding student numbers. Changes in fee levels have recently adversely affected non-clinical departments which had earlier been encouraged to recruit students funded only on a marginal basis. Research assessment has been introduced together with teaching quality assessment and staff appraisal - and, in 1993, the binary line was abolished.