From the early days of the university on, the way it should be run has been an issue of discussion and controversy. Two important dimensions in the discussions have been the authority distribution between internal (=academia) and external (=non-academia, such as state, church, business) stakeholders on issues concerning the university as a whole, and with respect to teaching and research matters the position of the chairholder versus the position of the non-professional academic staff and the students. The traditional distribution of power could be characterised as a careful balance between the internal and external interests on university matters, and a dominating position of the chairholders concerning academic issues, with hardly any influence at all for other academic staff or students. In all higher education systems major changes in this traditional distribution of power are rare and are nearly always caused by political, social or economic developments in the external environment of the university. In this article we will discuss the way in which in the Netherlands break with the traditional distribution of power in the universities took place in the 1960s. While we will focus on this period, in order to understand fully the nature and consequences of the mentioned break with the traditional situation, we will start with briefly outlining the nature of the governance structure of Dutch universities from the early 19th century till the 1960s.