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This paper contrasts the emphasis on planning in universities when funding from the state was stable and resources followed student numbers, with the emphasis on strategic management when state funding is declining and universities are of necessity much more market orientated. Planning processes could work well when universities had a predictable future, but are less appropriate when the climate is turbulent. The paper suggests that the following are the key words for successful universities in the new environment, competitiveness, opportunism, income generation and cost reduction, relevance, excellence and reputation. It goes on to argue that this framework of key characteristics demands a new approach to strategic management in universities requiring universities to take a holistic view of their activities, to coordinate institutional strengths so that they reinforce one another and to create machinery whereby academic, financial and physical planning strategy is decided on an integrated basis.