Given the myriad ways in which managerialism in higher education, and especially research undertaken there, is undesirable, is there a moral theory that plausibly explains why they all are and prescribes some realistic alternatives? In this contribution, I answer ‘yes’ to this overarching question. Specifically, I argue that the various respects in which managerialism is unjustified, particularly with regard to knowledge production, are well captured by an ethical philosophy grounded on salient ideas about communal relationship associated with the southern African ethic of ubuntu. Furthermore, I bring out how my moral-theoretic interpretation of ubuntu provides concrete guidance about how university research, amongst other things, ought instead to be conducted. I conclude that in light of the promise of the sub-Saharan ethic, in future work it merits being weighed up against more characteristically Western criticisms of managerialism.