This paper postulates a life cycle model of university entrepreneurialism at the national level. Based on the analysis, this paper identifies two fundamental sources of such entrepreneurialism: 1) the institutional anchoring of the university of a public-private hybrid form in organization and finance; 2) decentralization of the system in such a way as to encourage a high level of competition and differentiation. We hypothesize that when national university systems grow and exhibit signs of demand overload, political pressures for system homogenization increase; system homogenization weakens both sources of entrepreneurialism and leads to decline. The sources of decline are thus unintended consequences of policy choices to cope with the side effects of demand overload within national university systems. Implications for the ascendant Chinese university system are derived.