By the end of the early modern period, the structure and orientation of higher education had changed in ways that are eminently recognizable for the modern context. Aristotle was no longer a force providing the epistemological and methodological focus for universities and a more mechanistic orientation was emerging. The hierarchical place of theological knowledge had for the most part been displaced and the humanities had become a fixture, and a new openness was beginning to take hold in the construction and dissemination of knowledge that were to become imperative for the formation of the modern state.

The definition of a university varies widely, even within some countries. Where there is clarification, it is usually set by a government agency. For example:

In Australia, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) is Australia's independent national regulator of the higher education sector. Students rights within university are also protected by the Education Services for Overseas Students Act (ESOS).