Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to present a conceptual frame for scholars who draws on the conflicting logics of the postpandemic university. Design/methodology/approach: This feature paper is based on a systematic review of research and studies conducted in the field of higher education. It illustrates broader trends with respect to how the various elements of contemporary and conflicting challenges present themselves within higher education institutions (HEIs). Findings: A combination of literature review and fieldwork across a broad range of scientific fields presents a potentially powerful means of reducing the gap between research and practice. For this reason, this paper sets out to provide conceptual perspectives as to contemporary and conflicting challenges in higher education. Research limitations/implications: This paper presents many descriptive results from HEIs in the western world which do not allow for making global inferences toward the entire higher education sector. Practical implications: The results have a number of implications for the postpandemic university. Among them are that HEIs should not only be more open toward contemporary changes but also embrace previously excluded student populations with their purpose-driven and sustainable orientation toward life. Originality/value: This paper presents a conceptual contribution to contemporary challenges in higher education as a way of refraining from one-size-fits-all approaches. It demonstrates how institutional positioning and profiling depend on conflicting logics. Consequently, each institution of higher learning needs to address these challenges in line with their strategic, economic and political settings.