Marketing and academic reputation

Leaving aside the empirical question of what it is that, in fact, leads to universities having international “brand recognition”, I would be very curious to know how much the “review of its brand” that Trinity is apparently engaged in is costing the university in these difficult times.

28 replies on “Marketing and academic reputation”

Less than 100K? Surely you jest. You mean to tell me that pure (private-sector, GNP-contributing) genius like this can be had for such a bargain-basement price?

Why, I think I’ll rebrand myself!

I thought that branding involved the rather painful application of a red-hot iron, whether to the posterior (cattle) or to the forehead (convicted criminals).

Do the powers-that-be think that such painful treatment is necessary to ensure world-class performance at Trinity?

There will be a revolt by the graduates if the current custodians of TCD continue to mess about in this way. It is very distasteful.

Annoyingly, TCD have already changed the titles of academic positions away from the well-understood system of Lecturer/Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor/Professor, to the inappropriate (for Europe, especially in an old university) U.S. titles where everyone is a ‘professor’. So now we already have RTE & the papers introduce or describe someone as a ‘professor’, thereby mis-leading the public into lending greater weight because of assumed expertise. Bizarrely it apparently went to a vote amongst the staff. It’s like asking children to vote on more privileges, or anyone to vote for more money.
And it is dishonest. There was grade inflation, and now title inflation. It leads to everyone taking the word ‘professor’ less seriously, and it is annoying because of the many actual professors who earned the position.
There is a movement amongst graduates to have this nonsense reversed.
If the excuse is because “at conferences we are treated less seriously because we don’t have the word ‘professor’, then put in brackets/footnote, in the paper/grant application ‘equivalent to x-professor’ in the U.S. system, or vice-versa (i.e. ‘prof’ in the paper/grant, then ‘lecturer’ explanation in the footnote).

So now TCD start further messing around with discredited un-intellectual practices like maketing/branding there will be a backlash.

It is only institutions that have failed somehow that change their name.

MIT does more than Technology, but it did not change its name as its name counts for something.

The LSE does more than Economics, but it did not change its name as its name counts for something.

Anglo Irish Bank changed its name.

Windscale changed its name to Sellafield after a disaster.

When the NUI constituent colleges, and the recognised college in Maynooth, became independent universities officially, then the ones which lagged behind most were the ones that went through a ‘branding exercise’/name change.

UCG became NUIG, and St.Patrick’s College became NUIM, whereas the top two hung on to their names (UCC and UCD), because the name counted for more and they seemed to many to be proud of their name.

Maybe UCG and/or Maynooth shouldn’t have changed their names, because it looks to any half-intelligent eye that they then had something they were ashamed of, or were just unconfident, and many is the weak unconfident client that gets taken for a ride by some branding nonsense people. (It was a mistake of the NCIR (National College of industrial Relations) to change its name (to the National College of Ireland), because it had a certain reputation and it lost that. It didn’t matter if it did more that Industrial Relations, just like the LSE and MIT mentioned above. But this was a scheme (ego-trip) of Joyce, the sister of Anglo’s Sean O’Connor. And the new name “National College of Ireland” just sounds unserious and silly. If I saw something advertised by a “National College of England”, it would immediately conjure up images of delboy and some shakedown operation).

He pointed to confusion about the difference between a college and a university.

“Ireland knows Trinity College is a university but do people in Shanghai know that?”

Yes, of course, obviously there is a lot of confusion about other institutions without “University” in their title, such as MIT, Imperial, ETH, LSE etc.

This move is revealing about priorities and suggests a mindset of failure rather than success.

At a global level, how many British universities have what would be termed recognition? 5? In the US 10 to 12?

There are some universities where for example a business school such as Wharton in the US, Warwick in the UK and the Smurfit school in Ireland can give attention to the university.

However, generally in small countries a university gets recognition for renown in a sector over a long period: think of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden as a medical university and ETH Zurich as Europe’s top technology university.

ETH with the English title of Swiss Federal Institute of Technology does not have to worry about the distinction between college, institute or university.

The reputation it has cannot be bought from marketing people as Albert Einstein who was both a student and later member of the staff, was only one of more than two dozen Nobel Prize winners.

Collaboration is a popular term and in 2010 the heads of Trinity and UCD met at Stanford University and John Hennessy the president was appointed the first International Advisor to TCD-UCD Innovation Alliance.

Hennessy hadn’t much work to do as the two Irish universities had a split, most likely on bragging rights.


Thanks a lot. The words “objective assessment” in your post made me spit my morning coffee all over my computer.

Some people really will believe anything if you frame it the right way. I blame insufficient education in the ways of argument.

Less than €100k doesn’t sound too bad. I know of one Irish financial institution which rebranded in 2006 at a reported cost of €2 million! I can’t confirm the price, so I won’t name the company (not that it matters much), but I can well believe it given how much money was sloshing around at the time .

@ peadar

Thanks for being refreshingly honest and I totally agree with you about people voting for title inflation which unfortunately leads to credibility deflation for everyone.

@Shay Begorrah

‘Consignia’, of course. I didn’t bother to look it up.

Still privatization of essential services, although completely disastrous for most citizens in the vast majority if cases, is still the first item of the agenda in policy making circles.
The problem is that the policy making circles seem to take the cue or their instructions from the very tiny minority that stand to gain from privatizations.

Still, one gets a feeling, that the privatization / neoliberal promoters are very much on the backfoot right now.

[The new owners of the Royal Mail, will sell every available property it has to cash in on their bonanza. They will ransack the Royal Mail, just like the Eircom adventurers ransacked Eircom.]

1) Trinity College has to become Trinity University.

2) Anyone who lectures full time students is a professor.
Part time lecturers of evening students negotiate their title.

3) A twenty year plan has to be put in place to develop the China market.

4) Chinese language training at TU (previously TC).

5) Recruit Masters and Doctorate candidates from China.

6) Enter an agreement with a Chinese University to feed third
year students to TU.

7) Treat the Chinese students with respect and do try to understand cultural differences. Particularly what in Ireland would be called plagiarism will be a very ticklish issue.

8) Hire Professors from China, Japan Germany and France to remove the navel gazing backwater aura.

9) Emphasise Applied Sciences and Pure Science.

Cost is an issue in China, English language skills and foreign experience is desirable.

I know Chinese graduates from UCD (Library Science) who enjoyed their time in Ireland.

We can do it, it will not fall into our laps. I would think of it as a twenty year project. Not a solution to our immediate problems.

I spent a big slice of my life as part of TCD’s community and am sorry to see it fall on hard times and forced to embrace things it once spurned. But we all have to accept a changing world and the hollowing out of Western markets as developing world markets gain spending power and influence.
I think TCD should minimise the time/money spent on frivolities like manufactured branding and PR and focus on crafting transformative experiences for those that can afford to pay. The target audience should include the sons and daughters of the Irish diaspora, especially the US, where an inferior product is over-priced.
Inevitably the senior management team should reflect on their position given that every aspect of what is unfolding was/is entirely predictable. TCD’s implicit business strategy is reactive and essentially indistinguishable from all other Western institutions. That’s simply not good enough to serve the many remarkable people who comprise that community and who deserve better.

More welfare for the well-heeled? Trinity press release today:

Trinity College Dublin today [Friday] announced plans for a €70 million project involving a new Trinity School of Business, co-located with an Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub, as part of efforts to drive a culture of job creation across the campus and inDublin city centre.  The Provost of Trinity, Dr Patrick Prendergast, made the announcement at the Trinity Global Graduate Forum (TGGF) which drew over 100 of the university’s most successful alumni from across the world to Dublin this weekend. The two-day forum, held in Trinity, is the first time any university has invited its global graduates back to formulate plans to tackle some of the major challenges facing modern higher education, including funding, reputation, growth, technology and education. The graduates are coming from 16 countries representing 19 professions.

Acquiring an MBA has been the thing to do. Presently there is intense competition in the MBA market both in price and quality as Universities ramp up their recruitment efforts in what has been a profitable market. There are questions as to the ROI and usefulness of MBAs’.

As to the offspring of the diaspora, they have easy access to the best universities in the world. They tend to choose the Universities that their friends choose and in my own case neither Ireland or Germany was ever in contention. The market is in China as its middle class expands and demand for Engineers and Scientists is increasing as its industrial capacity expands. They have their own excellent universities, what they do not have is the ability to impart foreign experience and colloquial English.

To give you an idea of how integrated the world is, my son is in Naples, Italy for a meeting with a Genoa, Italy software company dealing with a project in the Persian Gulf that involves Canadian and German companies. This kind of collaboration is common, Sao Paulo today Seoul tomorrow.

As to languages speaking German and French helps but one also needs a few hundred words of the language of the country the project is in, Arabic in this case, Brasilian Portuguese a few months ago.

Ireland has relied on English and that worked well but the ROW is coming on strong.

I will not mention a word about Gaelic.

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