This paper uses neo-institutional theory to examine the rise and fall of performance indicators adopted as an element of public accountability by Australian universities. We argue that performance indicators were adopted as a symbolic gesture to satisfy the need for externally conferred legitimacy and to demonstrate accountability to various stakeholders through publication in the university’s annual report. Also, because adoption was symbolic and universities were coerced by the Australian Federal Government, the reporting was curtailed when the coercive pressures were relaxed or removed.