Purpose – In the early 1990s, a number of controversial and radical initiatives were introduced by the Australian Government that had a compounded impact on higher education in general, and for the teaching of accounting studies in particular. The impacts of these initiatives have now lasted well over a decade. The purpose of this paper is to address this situation. Design/methodology/approach – This paper uses a case-study approach to study the quality management objectives and strategies of an accounting department, to survive and prosper in this changing academic environment, initially as an independent entity in the period 1990-1996, and thereafter from 1997 to 2006 as a merged entity with another accounting department in the same university that was an internal competitor in the earlier period. Findings – It is demonstrated that the department was largely successful in climbing from a position of significant under-achievement amongst its peers in 1990, to one of strength in terms of both research performance and entrepreneurship by 1994. However, continual re-structuring of the department by the university has resulted in a loss of synergy and a decline in the latter periods of the study. Practical implications – This case is of particular interest to educators who are coping with the issues of “balance” between teaching and research, and to those interested in seeing how a department implemented a comprehensive quality management programme largely in keeping with the framework provided by the Higher Education Council. Originality/value – The value of the paper is that it provides many useful insights on many diverse issues to those universities and their departments which wish to operate in a globalised environment.