What’s in a name? The value of a good university brand

When it comes to student attraction, a university with a well-respected brand has an enormous advantage. But it takes more than a catchy slogan to stand out from the crowd

Universities need to market themselves as never before. As fees rise sharply and business-friendly courses boom, students and their families are ever more canny in researching value for money. And with more than 300 UK institutions competing for half a million students, the stakes are high.

In this rapidly changing marketplace, university branding is about much more than logos. But what does this mean for students and the role of branding in higher education in general? These questions formed the basis of a recent Guardian roundtable, held in association with brand communications consultancy Purpose. The debate was conducted under the Chatham House rule, which allows remarks to be reported without attribution to encourage a frank debate.

The roundtable participants were unanimous on key values for universities, among them: academic integrity; future employability; and, perhaps above all, the value of the student experience. But university “customers” nowadays are not only students but their parents as well. One delegate spoke for everyone: “In a difficult economic situation, parents at open days are asking more and more astute questions while applicants sit with their heads down.”

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