This article revisits a set of long-standing debates to suggest how the role of universities in providing a ‘professional education’ in journalism might be (re)considered. Existing arguments over journalism education identify a need to move beyond the limiting frame of a presumed ‘industry–academic dichotomy’ to develop a more critical approach to professional education. While supporting this direction, this article draws on work suggesting that a more careful consideration of both the concept of professionalism and its implications for stakeholders is required. It argues that, by approaching professionalism as a discursive and socially valorised basis of identity rather than simply a series of ‘traits’, a more analytical perspective on how universities are both subject to and implicated in processes of ‘professionalisation’ is gained. These processes situate universities as both major stakeholders in, and an increasingly important influence on, emergent formations of journalistic professionalism.