Universities worldwide are in the midst of a dramatic transformation of their administrative and scholarly goals. Such reforms are driven by a sense of global competition among universities (over students, faculty, funding and thus prestige) and such increased competition is now requiring universities to set strategic plans. Complementing strategies for financial solvency, global ranking, and curricula, universities also approach their identity in a strategic manner and increasingly concentrate efforts on branding. Thus, universities emulate managerial practices and borrow marketing tools from the corporate world and such emulation creates tension with the ethos of the university as a public institution. We therefore
ask: How are universities creating a brand? Why are they engaging in branding? And, what are the implications of the coming of “brand society” onto campus? To consider these matters, we are compiling quantitative and qualitative data of visual material images (visual data on brands, emblems, webpages and favicons) in 14 European countries and additional 19 countries worldwide. We draw such data from university archives and publicity material, as well as from interviews with university administrators, faculty and branding consultants. We are also compiling information about the university’s structure, capacity and history, as well as about its national context, into order to analyze the causal mechanism for such worldwide branding trend. Such analyses will address both the historical changes to the university (longitudinal) and cross-national differences in university structuration (cross-sectional). Conclusions will come to wrestle with such issues as the university’s evolving mission and sense of identity, the nature of knowledge and its commercialization, and sectorial changes in the knowledge economy. For such discussions, I draw on the scholarly fields of higher education studies, organization studies, and globalization studies.
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