In many European countries, universities are asked to become more market-oriented. Those who oppose this trend mostly invoke a traditional university ideal to make their case. This paper aims to look for a third way to conceptualise a university that is neither market-oriented nor traditionalist. It finds such an alternative by looking at a democratic culture in which knowledge remains indeterminate and subject to debate. It concretely demonstrates that this alternative view allows us to identify problematic aspects of contemporary discourses on universities, as exemplified by the European Commission's discourse. It ends by arguing that the alternative vision is more in tune with the grassroots reality of research and education than the market-oriented view.