Higher education reform has a particular character in the United Kingdom as Stefan Collini points out in his book, What are universities for? Margaret Thatcher's assault on social institutions put the university, as an institution for the common good, under particular economic pressure. As a result, British-oriented higher education systems world- the legacy of Empire - have suffered similar mounting pressures. This includes South Africa where the debate has been strongly influenced by the idea that university, in the name of democracy, should be more accountable and transparent. But, this purported shift towards openness masks the powerful hold of market-driven economics on the contemporary university and poses a threat to its immediate purpose and the long-term future of higher education.