The scale and impact of the current global financial and economic crisis affect not just the public and political institutions established to manage the economy, but also those programmes in institutions of higher education which seek to work with professionals, practitioners and decision makers. If we can witness a public crisis of confidence in the capacity of our existing family of institutions to manage the change, then we might expect to observe similar changes in universities, too. This article reflects upon the nature of the relationships between universities (business and management schools) and the wider public and political community. It also attempts to anticipate some of the potential consequences of the crisis in terms of how the academy might reflect upon its assumptions concerning teaching and learning approaches, and expectations within the discipline of public administration. We suggest that the present crisis is an opportunity to think about the curriculum and pedagogic choices we make and to promote a more collaborative approach to learning, drawing upon models of reflection and professional practice to be found across different disciplines including social work and teaching.