In recent decades the higher education systems of most developed nations have been substantially expanded and reformed with a greater policy emphasis on market competition as a means of achieving institutional coordination, improvement and efficiency. During this period, new policy instruments have been introduced as a means of assuring the quality of university performance, particularly in teaching and research. Empirical research on these instruments suggests the strengths and weaknesses of existing national policy approaches. While competition is pervasive in academic research, attempts to design regulatory policies utilizing market forces and pricing mechanisms to improve universities have had distorting effects on academic costs and quality. Current policy reforms have also stimulated university deregulation and the consequent need for greater strategic management at the institutional level. This suggests that public policies designed to enhance university-based collective actions to assure and improve the quality and cost of education and research warrant increased attention and study.