I recently and informally polled a number of sitting and past Vice Chancellors as well as senior university administrators on the question: Are South African universities less autonomous today than they were before 1994? With one exception, all of them agreed that this was indeed the case; that universities enjoy less autonomy today than under apartheid. This immediately raises a series of follow-up questions. First, what exactly is the substance or content of this loss of autonomy? Second, how did this erosion of autonomy happen; in other words, what were the forces that enabled this loss of autonomy within the universities? And third, if autonomy was such a prized attribute in the institutional struggle against apartheid, why is there so little public outcry against the erosion of what TB Davie in his eloquent and durable formulation described as the right to decide who shall teach, what we teach, how we teach, and whom we teach? To respond to these questions it might be useful to begin by making explicit some starting claims and assumptions which I hold about the relationship between the state and universities.