When in the latter part of the 20th century nurse 'training' in the UK left the old schools of nursing (based within the health delivery system) and entered universities, the promise was not just a change of focus from training to education but an embracement of 'higher' education. Specifically, nurses were to be exposed to the demands of thinking rather than just doing - and critical thinking at that. However, despite a history of critical perspectives informing nursing theory, that promise may be turning sour. The insidious saturation of the university system in bureaucracy and managerialism has, we argue, undermined critical thinking. A major funding restructuring of higher education in the UK, coinciding with public concern about the state of nursing practice, is undermining further the viability of critical thinking in nursing and potentially the acceptability of university education for nurses. Nevertheless, while critical thinking in universities has decayed, there is no obvious educational alternative that can provide this core attribute, one that is even more necessary to understand health and promote competent nursing practice in an increasingly complex and globalising world. We propose that nurse academics and their colleagues from many other academic and professional disciplines engage in collegiate 'moral action' to re-establish critical thinking in UK universities.