Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS



Project ID: 322041
Funded under: FP7-PEOPLE
Country: Israel

Final Report Summary - BRANDINGUNIVERSITIES (Branding of Universities: cross-national study of competition and identity in higher education)

A new and, by definition, visible feature of global higher education is the branding of universities and colleges worldwide. Often appended to strategic planning exercises, universities and colleges worldwide labor to develop a coherent “brand identity” and subsequently launch branding campaigns. Such branding action is justified as consolidating institutional character and building reputation among prospective students, corporate partners, donors and alumni and still within academia branding is met with much suspicion. Academics are often dismissive, if not disparaging, of any branding initiative taken by their universities and regard branding as one among the new managerial fads that infringe on the essence of their institution.
In this pioneering research, that marries the fields of organization aesthetics, higher education, and globalization studies, we introduce a phenomenological-institutional perspective onto the phenomenon of global branding of academia. I argue that the culture of globalization, and specifically the coming of “brand society” and related professionalization and mediatization, spur universities to articulate their visual identity. The resulting university emblems are, therefore, visual self-representations of organizational identity and material-cum-symbolic forms of organizational memory.
Branding is the “tip of an iceberg” of administrative and market-oriented transformation of universities worldwide. Branding literally serves as a symbol for comprehensive and substantive changes to the millennium-old institution of the university. My analyses of recent branding trends in higher education worldwide reveal the extent of change in the social role of higher education: in the era of the global knowledge economy, where knowledge is a marketable commodity, the university’s halls of learning are transformed into training centers or knowledge production sites. The contemporary model of the “promotional university,” which is preoccupied with ranking and branding, draws heavily upon the culture of globalization.
The project has served as a path for my integration into Israeli academia, after 22 years of academic studies and work in Stanford University in the U.S. The massive data collection of all university emblems in 24 countries, as well as in a sample of American universities, and the rounds of coding and recoding of discursive content in these emblems, required the formation of a research team. CIG allowed me to recruit graduate students to serve as my research assistants, to sponsor international collaborations on research tasks and on related topics by inviting colleagues to HUJI and traveling to conferences, and to support me through the long process of writing and publication of research findings. Overall, these various activities, enabled by CIG sponsorship, gave visibility to my research, and thus facilitated my assimilation into HUJI and Israeli academic, and specifically sociology, community.

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