The project compares reforms of higher education governance in Finland and Sweden from 1965 until today, with a focus on how changes in the decision making processes and the distribution of power are related to transformed interpretations of the function of democracy within the university organization as well as of the university’s role in society. Through a comparative approach, we analyze how international trends, such as the student revolution’s demands for democratic influence in the late 1960s and the marketization of universities through new public management reforms from the 1980s, have had different repercussions in two similar Nordic societies, which nonetheless have political cultures that differs in significant ways. Since the balance between the principles of rule of law and democracy are different in the two countries’ political cultures, Finland emphasizing the former and Sweden the latter, politics in Finland has had a tendency to become bureaucratized, while the Swedish bureaucracy have tend to be politicized. Combing theories of political culture with models of the interrelationship between different domains of power within universities, we investigate how reforms of university governance have affected the possibilities of different actors to exert influence over important decisions. Thereby, we aim to understand how national models of university governance are shaped by current global trends in interaction with deep-rooted national political cultures.