In the 1990s, both the British and Dutch research systems were subject to ministerial attempts at restructuring to increase central direction. In the United Kingdom, structural changes were brought about with little difficulty, but these efforts met with mixed success in the Netherlands. The paper examines the reasons for the difference. It argues that the crucial factor was not more proximal explanations, but the different political cultures in the two countries. Dutch consensus politics leads to less conservative policies in many areas, but in research policy it allows institutional inertia.