Friday, December 10, 2010

Quality of Conferences and Branding of Universities

Most universities are transforming their traditional self image into one that can cope with the challenges and competition in a global knowledge society. Particularly difficult to grasp (for administrators and researchers alike) is the fact that a university name is a brand which needs to be grown, protected, and used wisely. Our rector is currently (with good reasons, I think) challenging the architects who want to call two new high rise buildings in town "university towers", though the towers have nothing to do with the university. At the same time, her press office routinely agrees to requests for using the university logo at conference web sites, as long as it finds the names of university researchers on the program committee. Not denying the difficulty of making such judgments, shouldn't the step from an individual signing up to serve on a PC to the whole university publicly supporting the conference be bigger? After all, the implications for the reputation of both, the conference and the university, can be substantial and need not be positive. Can you imagine the press office of, say, Lufthansa deciding to let a club of model airplane builders use the Lufthansa logo, just because one of its employees worked a few hours as a volunteer for the club? Today, if it does not cost anything to put the logo on, press officers here and at other universities do not think twice before handing it out. Ironically, it is exactly then when they should wonder who stands to gain and to loose in this game of mutual flattering.

1 comment:

  1. To protect the university name - like a brand - is an old tradition: before a diploma or a Ph.D. is given, more or less stringent exams must be passed. As a consequence, diplomas from some universities are in higher esteem than from others.
    Other aspects of "managing the university brand" seem more problematic to me: our university plans to rent space on trade conferences to show presence, i.e. advertise its brand. Not every aspect of an university is comparable to a company, and university "brands" are not in every aspect similar to "commercial brands".