Our paper investigates the emergence and development of quality assurance (QA) for teaching in the Netherlands since the mid-1980s. We conceptualise our paper on the background of the multi-level study of New Public Management (NPM) as a narrative of political change, as a choice of certain policy instruments and distinct organisational forms, and as a set of practical control technologies. We show how the specific policy regime of corporatist negotiations and Rechtsstaat instruments deflected QA as a ‘hard’ NPM-policy. QA has nevertheless been instrumental within a wider NPM-inspired policy mix for achieving new ways of governmental control of universities and managerialist control within universities. We conclude by arguing that an important function of QA has been to provide ‘legitimacy through procedures.