Over the past 10 to 17 years following the transition of undergraduate nurse education to the tertiary system, Australian nurse educators have adapted resourcefully to many challenges in a system which is being continuously re-modelled. Some of these challenges were anticipated whilst others are covert and insidious. The goal of tertiary based education for nurses was to ensure competent and professionally prepared graduates (Nurse Education Review Secretariat 1994 pxviii). The ideology of economic-rationalism and its various faces is now endemic and flourishing in Australian universities and is inevitably affecting this goal for tertiary nursing education. This paper considers some of the implications of broader ideological changes arising from government policy and the micro-ramifications of these for the ability of the discipline to ensure quality assurance of graduates from pre-registration courses. In particular the pervasive impact of these policies on the quality of formative and summative assessment in both clinical and theoretical contexts is considered with specific reference to the highly problematic and little explored nature of social discourse which occurs when formative, and ultimately, summative pass/fail decisions are negotiated. Increasing commercialisation of universities is changing the way the student-teacher relationship is perceived with the role of the student moving from that of consumer with rights, to that of customer in the market-place of the university. It is imperative for the integrity of the discipline that the dynamics and discourse emanating from changing relationships in the 'brave new university world' are researched and that the issues are confronted in open and honest debate.