Purpose - This paper investigates the consequences of the commercialisation of Australian universities. It also provides a theoretical framework which focuses this action. Design / methodology - The Red Queen scenario posits that organisations that are more active than their rivals (they run faster) improve their competitive positions and increase their performance. However, organisations that are more sluggish (they run slower) experience negative performance consequences. This paper examines this process using the new institutional theory against the backdrop of the quest for increased international student numbers, higher international ranking and international accreditation. Findings - Using data from the 2011 Excellence in Research for Australia project the findings support the Hypothesis that those universities that "run faster" - that is achieve international accreditation and high international rankings - perform better than universities that "run slower" - that is do not achieve international accreditation and high international rankings. These findings were viewed through an institutional theory lens focusing on aspects of competition using the Red Queen sanerio. Practical implications - While much has been written about the commercialisation of education in Australia, in particular accounting education, little is known about the consequences. This study casts doubts on the articulated desire of a "better" higher education institution and warns that its pursuit could result in a two-tiered system. Originality- /- value - This paper explores some of the consequences arising from changes in ideology in universities and the introduction of a commercial philosophy. In particular the influence research output has when measured in terms of published papers and research grants won.