Today, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR; Council of Europe 2001) is widely recognised as emblematic of globalization in education, both in the realms of policy and in educational practice (Byram et al. 2012a). In Europe the CEFR is regularly cited as a reference point for curriculum planning, and is often claimed to support greater transparency and coherence across the entire spectrum of language education. Despite substantial adoption of the CEFR beyond Europe, it has gained little ground in Australian higher education institutions. In order to understand this anomaly, and to analyse the underlying causes of the low traction the CEFR commands in Australia, this article reports on a study of the attitudes, knowledge and perceptions of academics and students collected through a nationwide online survey. The results suggest a perplexing situation, a combination of general unfamiliarity contrasted with pockets of positive acceptance of the CEFR in Australian universities. Moreover, the data suggest that respondents who are teachers are rather less concerned by claimed impediments to learning standards than some researchers and applied linguists who have made such criticism of the CEFR. The article also discusses some controversies that surround attempts to promote the CEFR for wider use. The aim is to contribute to local and international debate on the CEFR and to stimulate discussion about the roles and limits of its use as a universal language learning reference document and as a practical resource to support language teaching and assessment.