The article explores major milestones in reforming higher education in Ukraine, applying the methodology of case studies. It analyzes political and social conditions that influenced the process of reform. The author pays particular attention to the concept of university autonomy, its development and implementation in Ukraine, considering legal and institutional efforts. The impact and experience of some leading institutions like Kyiv-Mohyla Academy is discussed. The author concludes that the task of ensuring comprehensive university autonomy is of a political nature. This is the only reliable instrument for raising of quality of Ukrainian higher education.