The contemporary university is subject to two, apparently contradictory, forces. The first is the drive towards the modernisation of its governance and management, often in ways that reflect corporate structures more familiar in the private sector (and other parts of the reformed public sector). This drive has been accompanied by the growth of performance management, both of institutions and individual teachers and researchers; the more prescriptive identification of goals and targets (at the expense, perhaps, of traditional notions of autonomy and academic freedom); and more explicit – and intrusive? – forms of audit, accountability and evaluation. The other force is the development of new modes of learning, a more open curriculum and more distributed patterns of research. Examples include the popularity of (technology-enhanced) self-directed learning, the growth of massive open online courses (MOOCs), the spread of open-source publication and greater emphasis on the impact and application of research. Both forces reflect deep-rooted changes in the nature of modern higher education and research systems, and it would be misleading to see them as always or inevitably in conflict. However, they do pose new dilemmas about how to maintain an appropriate balance between the necessary management of the large, complex and heterogeneous organisations that modern universities have become and their capacity for innovation and creativity.