Between 1998 and 2004, the higher education systems of Germany, France and the Netherlands underwent major changes. The changes were framed in the context of the Bologna process, and linked to the reform of degree structure towards a system of undergraduate and graduate cycles. This article investigates how a key feature of these systems was affected, the relationship between university and non-university higher education. It demonstrates how the Bologna process was seized as an opportunity for adjusting policies defining the types of higher education institutions, their status and roles. Using institutional theory, it compares actor constellations and actor interaction in the policy process to explain similarities and differences. It finds that, while the two institutional types moved closer to each other in all three systems, the boundaries between university and non-university higher education started to blur, and tensions emerged between the new degree structures and other elements of the institutional reality.