New economy and higher education. Changes in the universities of the Milan metropolitan area. The concept of new economy is a new one: it is unclear if it will resist, and become a part of the conceptual toolbox of economic sociology, or disappear as many others fad concepts have done in the recent past. This paper builds on a recent research about the evolution of Milan’s university system, and tries to investigate if the concept can be useful in addressing this object. Its empirical section describes quantitatively, with data purposively collected, the evolution of Milan university system during the Nineties, and finds that it has expanded, mostly in the postgraduate and vocationally oriented area; and become more segmented. Then some causes of this change are investigated: the labour market; the demographic structure; the institutional framework, where there has been a major reform which propelled university participation. The final section speculates about these results, asking if the new economy concept is useful to describe them: the conclusion is that it can be used as a general, sensitizing concept, but one which has to be empirically determined and measured.