This paper uses institutional theory to analyse the role of the British Academy of Management (BAM) and the Association of Business Schools (ABS) in gaining legitimacy for management education in the UK. By the 1980s, serious issues surrounding rigour and relevance were being asked about UK business schools that raised concerns about the legitimacy of management as a discipline. A major consequence was that management received relatively low research funding compared with other social science disciplines from key funding bodies, e.g. the Economic and Social Science Research Council. Using archival and interview data, we examine how BAM and ABS, as professional bodies, applied multiple approaches aimed at improving the quality of management research and teaching to gain legitimacy from influential external agencies. An unintended consequence of these actions has been an increasing isomorphism in management research and education in the UK. Although some of the original concerns still remain with regard to management education, both organizations have been successful in increasing the external perception of legitimacy.