Adopting a pluralistic view of academics’ informal learning that draws on Habermas (1987), this article suggests that a great deal of academic learning results from tensions and incompatibilities between individual interests and those of employing institutions increasingly resonant with the ideology of New Public Management (NPM), with its emphasis on market forces (e.g. student as ‘customer’), enhanced management power, surveillance, and measurement. To explore these ideas further, the article draws on interviews with academics at an Australian university to examine their informal learning about teaching. The academics interviewed had learnt a great deal from the changing context about how teaching is perceived by their institution, as well as about their own personal status and security in the new environment. The paper suggests that the ruthless push of NPM and associated ideologies and pressures impacting on higher education in Western countries represent ‘currents’ running counter to the efforts of academic developers to foster teaching excellence and expertise. The article’s conclusions suggest value in further research into the impact of ideological changes such as NPM on ‘learning about teaching’ in a variety of institutional settings.