Rebranding Trinity College Dublin

April the first seems like as good a day as any to open a thread on the recent TCD rebranding initiative, which according to Brian Lucey cost the cash-strapped university around €100,000. A few questions arise:

Has it occurred to TCD that it actually has a very strong brand (how I hate that word), and that this may in fact be the reason that it does reasonably well in reputation-based surveys?

Isn’t the new shield just a little bit chintzy, and was the old one not much nicer?

If they are going to make a big deal about the book in the new crest not necessarily being the Bible of the old one, is there not a problem with the name of the College itself (my kids pointed that one out before collapsing in a fit of giggles)?

Isn’t the whole idea of “rebranding” a university just a little bit second division, and does this exercise not risk damaging the reputation of the institution?

Is there any chance that having spent €100,000 on the exercise, the promised staff consultations will be any more than a box-ticking exercise?

54 replies on “Rebranding Trinity College Dublin”

The project seems bizarre as apparently the original plan was to drop the word ‘College’ but it was kept for Google search results.

What is new is the definite article in the title and apaprt from official use, who would use the full name in informal conversation?

I wrote a piece on the issue last week as it reflects the obsession with being “world-class,” including launching a modern thing that every university should have: an entrepreneurship hub

In age of acronym/ Google, Trinity to rebrand as ‘Trinity College, the University of Dublin’

Given the day that’s in it I propose that Ireland re- brand itself

ERIN – Econonically Re-animated Investment Nation

small print to qualify that this is wholly dependent on political auto-castration and EU largesse

Agree with Kevin on TCD’s rebranding. When I saw the details published, it really felt as if someone had got hold of the wrong end of the stick. It looks very much like the brand of a new university aspiring to Top Global 500 status, and not the the brand of a venerable and fairly highly ranked university trying to build on an existing global reputation.

Since TCD barely controls its own income, admissions, hiring, promotions, or salary arrangements, and given that its annual budget is about half that of European universities with similar numbers of students, the university administration ends up being distracted into trivia of this sort as about the only thing left within its decision-making autonomy.

Also it wasnt for googling that the proposed name change was dropped. It was for bibliographic consistency. So we will still use TCD.

Also, worrying about being associated with IKEA and Ryanair with blue and yellow colours is a mistake. Blue and yellow are a classic combination. In five years it will be something else.

As an example of World Leading Rebranding Hub Excellence it really is pushing the envelope at the tip of the spear in getting its rebranding in before the scandal hits the media. What Bill Shankly might have called “getting your retaliation in early!”

What about merging the resources and citation points of the three Dublin universities, tcducddcu, being all ad agency and in dress-down. This has the advantage of easily tripping off the tongues of many from Far East target markets.

DUC would also be available and there would be Brownie points for retaining each of the words of the original name The ‘Dublin University Trinity’.

@Gavin K

Speaking of envelopes; ‘ear, I want a word with you. I heard a rumour you had left the envelope with some boiled sweets, in your trouser pocket and put them all through the wash.

There is no point in me or anyone else that could be a finance guy updating it – the whole point is that it has to be demonstrably a forecast anyone could make (no offence).

The current endeavor is not so much an example of rebranding, as seeking to build a new brand on the foundations of the old one – but the dangers of that, in the modern world, is others may join in, for their own nefarious purposes.

If I were an enterprising spammer I’d be off on my merry way making up fake websites and preparing bulk emails for every variation of College, the University of Dublin – even better if they can cross-polinate from real world names for Google searches, for example:

Gonzaga College, the University of Dublin

Blackrock College, the University of Dublin


The idea being to create the impression that Trinity College, instead of being the one and only college in the university, is merely one of many.

I assume the marketing people have thought this one through, right?

@ Fergaloh

ERIN is the soup – now you know you’re home

@ Gavin

Blue + yellow is deadly boring . If you ever go to India you’ll see feck all saris with that combo.

GAA colours in Ireland are by and large confined to white + another colour or 2 primary colours together – it seems to be a national failure of imagination

Its been pointed out to me that I would be a rubbish re-brander.

Er, The Dublin College Trinity would be DCT.

100k is actually very little to spend on a re-branding exercise. Most successful organisations are continually refining their branding to keep it relevant and modern and reflective of their activities and values. It’s easy to come along and say ‘100k for that!’ and say ‘I could have done it in half an hour’, but good branding and design require thought and money. How long do you think Apple spent thinking about and working on, eg, the narrow Helvetica font for IOS 7? (Of course, as with any area of human activity, money can be wasted, and bad decisions made.)

Sure, 100K is chicken feed and aren’t our universities just flush with cash so they can afford to blow tens of thousands on any and every checkout-line impulse buy…

Newsflash: our universities are currently being held together by twigs, twine and the goodwill of a lot of staff who have seen their pay cut and their workloads doubled. The idea that there is money to burn on inanities like this branding exercise says just about all anyone needs to know about priorities in the sector.

@ grumpy, et al

Okay, so this goes back to July, 2011 when grumpy cited a paper that showed that on average growth forecasts (GDP) were over optimistic by:

Year 1 (the year we’re in): 0.2%
Year 2: 0.8%
Year 3: 1.5%

NB: This is an average: some countries are actually institutionally inclined to underestimate growth.

You can read the results from a year ago in the link above – the envelope beat Department of Finance forecasts (and everyone else) 2 – 1 and was much more beautifully on-trend (as John McHale of the IFAC pointed out: growth forecasts went down as the future became more nearly the present).

The Department of Finance’s forecast as of the Budget, December 2012:
2013 : 1.5%
2014 : 2.5%
2015 : 2.9%

Apply optimism filter and the envelope said:
2013 : 1.3%
2014 : 1.7%
2015 : 1.4%

According to the EU Commission Winter Forecast 2014 actual growth is/was:

2013: 0.3%
2014: 1.8% (predicted)
2015: 2.9% (predicted)

Okay from that date, so the envelope is again 2 – 1 up, but there is the distinct possibility that the EU forecast is itself over-optimistic. The definite is that the envelope beat the DoF, etc, 2013 and looks fairly good for 2014.

So let’s look at the most recent forecasts.

The DoF budget 2014 (which is made end 2013) forecasts GDP growth as:

2014: 2.0%
2015: 2.3%
2016: 2.8%

Note that the trend is moving towards the envelope (as the future becomes more near forecasts decline).

Apply the envelope and we get:

2014: 1.8%
2015: 1.5%
2016: 1.3%

Let’s see how the envelope goes next year.

This is an odd thread for this to come up in and I may do a little envelope re-scratching and repost.

As with last year I left the above to stand for itself.

Last year I was concerned that the envelope wouldn’t catch the point of inflection: ie that in the famously described, small open economy, there would be (a fairly uncontrollable) bounce.

Now I’m concerned there will be a permanent depression more to do with being in the EZ than anything to do with secular stagnation.

@ seafóid

I have drunk wine from the Trinity vineyards and it gave me a taste for German Riesling. I couldn’t tell you if it was good, just that I liked it.

Also, the blue/yellow combination looks back to Irish blue behind the gold of the harp which offers a possible different future. As a skeptical observer of power Trinity should stand for a different Ireland, I fink.

@ Ninap

It’s not just the logo and name, this is part of ramping up activities to get commercial sponsorship.

As for the entrepreneurship hub, in the tech sector, there is a myth that the typical founder is a college dropout or recent graduate. In the US it’s a person with business experience who is almost 40.

In the US also, only a small number of universities make money from technology transfer activities.

Brookings research shows that in 2012 the top 5% of earners (8 universities) took 50% of the total licensing income of the university system; and the top 10% (16 universities) took 70%, nearly three-quarters of the system’s income.

130 universities did not generate enough licensing income in 2012 to cover the wages of their technology transfer staff and the legal costs for the patents they file. What is more, with 84% universities operating technology transfer in the red, 2012 was a good year because over the last 20 years, on average, 87% did not break even.

Guinness was renamed after a merger in 1997 and after the chairman disclosed that the bill for the new name comprising two Greek words dia and geo, was in the region of £250,000, one shareholder said: “That’s childish. With all the brains on the board surely you could have easily invented a silly name like Diageo.”

MH I think your reading too much into this. Not everything in unis is about thinly disgusied commercialisation. Really, its not .

@ All
On the contrary, I think TCD had to be more explicit in communicating itself as a ‘university’ rather than a ‘college’ to foreign prospective students, academics, funders etc.- their target markets. In line with its strategy to capture firstly foreign students, the word ‘college’ can easily be interpreted by many abroad, particularly the large lucrative non-anglo markets of Asia, Sth Amercia, Middle East, as a second-level, vocational institution … but not a University. They needed to make a distinction to state exactly what they are to those abroad. So I think they had to include ‘University’ in its title in some way but i think brand name could have been a tad shorter in length. For example : ‘Trinity University College, Dublin’.
No Charge 🙂

Let me get this straight: people planning to attend universitynot to mention ‘academics’ and ‘funders’ are too stupid to understand (or unwilling to do even the most cursory sort of research needed to find out) that Trinity College Dublin is a university?

Are American third-level liberal arts colleges (e.g. Oberlin College) also confused with second-level institutions?

I say that this ‘problem’ is no such thing. Most of the world is tuned into the American system where ‘college’ cannot mean ‘secondary school’.

a) there is as I understand it no issue in Chinese as the mandarin word used for all HE is universities.
B) I have seen ZERO evidence (the plural of anecdote is not data) that there is a problem. Lots of assertions no facts.
C) I have yet to actually meet anyone in TCD who has run into this alleged problem. It doesnt seem to happen in the MBA, MSc or PhD (business market).
D) Ernie has it nailed.
E) Whose strategy is it to capture foreigners? Not TCD. Plus, you and many others confuse markets. The market for Postdocs NE the market for undergrads. Funders are utterly unconfused. As are academics.

This is wrongheaded. Its marketing underpants gnome strategy. TCD is the preeminent university in Ireland, followed closely by UCD. A much bigger problem out in Chindia (but not for the 500m people next door or the yanks or the Latin Americans or the Africans ) is they dont know where IRELAND is. Build academic global excellence. Theres yer brand ( note : WE HAVE THIS).

Without university in the title, it’s no wonder MIT, Caltech, ETH are so little known.

Exactly. The word ‘College’ can mean many different educational levels in different cultural contexts, as the example you just gave, and also stated by TCD Provost (
The word ‘University’ to most means simply 3rd and 4th level. This sends a clear message internationally for prospects without much google- ing needed. This is my objective opinion.

Correct on your point A). “all HE are Universities”. There in lies my point – to use ‘University’ in the TCD title.
B) I dont know, you may be right, facts are needed.
C) That’s good news for now.
D) addressed in my reply @ Ernie
E). There are 7 Universities, 13 IOTs, DIT and many private third-level institutions in Republic of Ireland, all having to compete on many things with one another for domestic market and – with the increased activity in international student recruitment – for foreign markets.

As a huge ~ 270M euro turnover FDI business with 400 years of history behind it and still standing, TCD needs to be very careful about its brand. In far leaner times than these its brand and the values of the staff and students that underpinned that brand kept it afloat.
In that context the stated cost of the hired help is negligible. Much much more will no doubt have been spent in terms of mgmt time and study.
One assumes there are compelling reasons for risking this change. If so it should be done professionally and the community should embrace it. If not then the community there needs to block this whimsy and in due course find better leaders.

@ brian lucey

Also it wasnt for googling that the proposed name change was dropped…MH I think your reading too much into this. Not everything in unis is about thinly disgusied commercialisation. Really, its not .

Yes Googling is important and according to The Irish Times, the board has allowed ‘TCD’ to continue to be used in research publications and ‘Trinity College Dublin’ also.

Stressing the importance of searchability online, Dr Eoin O’Dell, chairman of Trinity Fellows, said: “The computer is stupid and it can’t deal with variations. The geometric argument is, given we have coalesced around a standard of ‘Trinity College Dublin’ in the last 10 years, anything to change that would be wasteful and dangerous.”

In my last post I referred to two areas where commercialisation is relevant and a third would be attracting foreign students.

The annual income for the Irish higher education sector from technology licensing is less than €1m, according to the Government.

@ All

A few months ago, Minister Bruton announced that 5,000 additional places would be made available at third level for Indian students but typically he didn’t say how this would be achieved.

OECD data shows that the annual spending per tertiary student in Japan is about the same as in Ireland, at $16,015 (purchasing power parity based) and $16,008, respectively. However, the average duration of tertiary studies is more than one year longer in Japan than in Ireland (4.5 and 3.2 years, respectively). As a consequence, the cumulative expenditure for each tertiary student is nearly $20,000 less in Ireland ($51,865) than in Japan ($71,441).

R&D and ancillary services add about a third to the cost per student.

Ireland is ahead of UK, Belgium, Italy, Iceland and New Zealand.

That comment by Eoin is in the context of bibliography databases as is clear from full article including a set of quotes by moi on same. It’s sfa to do with randomness googling. It’s about research and citations

@ Brian Lucy
Would Trinity consider conferring an honorary doctorate on Brian Patterson. Dr David Went replaced Brian in 2007 as chairman of the Irish Times. Brian had been chairman of the Irish Times since 2002. He had also been chairman of the Financial Regulator, Central Bank of Ireland from 2002 till 2008.


An “objective opinion” is an oxymoron.

Trinity are apparently so focused on the meaning of the word “college” that they’ve lost sight of the meaning of the words “Trinity College.”

As Ernie and Kevin Denny both suggest this is bizarre stuff. Why change the name of a 400 year old institution to get more recognition?

Is the market for foreign students wishing to be taught in English who have never heard of the various Cambridge colleges, the LSE, MIT and ICL really that important? Who are these people?

Does it make even slight sense to try to compete with the University of Wolverhampton in the grandiosity stakes?

As a compromise Trinity could go the route of UCD and UCL and cover all the bases.

I give you DUCT – your pathway to third level excellence.

p.s. With the removal of the bible (who knew?) from the crest of the “University formally known as TCD” I look forward to the new colliversity ridding itself of any other potentially divisive displays of religious texts. Anything that might possibly deter customers students has to go and better safe than sorry.

Nothing says recovery like a thread on the name of a has-been university. Back in the real world, which I guess no one is worried about any more, excellent public finances data, unemployment drops again, PMIs all in solid growth territory.

Now, back to the big debate!

“has-been university”
by which we learn that JF is not in TCD. Poor sensitive lamb.

@ JF
“Back in the real world, which I guess no one is worried about any more”

mar dhea
Still waiting for interest rates to come back up from the floor. Surely if these were normal you could say things were functioning.


re: Recovery, and the facts.

I posted the comment below on another thread.——————

The latest (March) govt returns indicate just how grindingly slow the whole process of book balancing is.

Even with modest % increases in income and modest % reductions in expenditure, the deficit on the current account is still running at 1 billion per month (3.6 bn less sinking fund .6bn at the end of March).

It is difficult to be positive about the ‘progress’ made, even more so when so-called responsible people are starting to talk about tax cuts.

Re: Rebranding Trinity College:

@ Brian Lucey

If Dr David Went was worthy to be conferred with an honorary doctorate by TCD surely Sean Fitzpatrick is entitled to be considered for an honorary doctorate too.

If you destroy a bank ,TCD will award you an honorory doctorate. If you are a soft landing economist–TCD will award you a professorship.

Nope John…. still not getting the relevance of these comments to the efficacy or need for a rebranding… third time lucky?

That’s not true: they’re just asking it be pronounced ‘Heyzeus College Oxford’ to get away from any unwanted religious connotations and give it a more international feel.

Fords are very old-fashioned, so maybe if they felt like a more ‘future facing’ (actual terms used, kids) name they could go for ‘Heyzeus College Oxbridge’ – Hmm, that oddly might happen.

I am not sure if this is appropriate for this site, but I am having a hard time understanding TCD. I have been looking into their MBA program. I would think that they would increase their brand recognition by getting ranked in the Financial Times and get accreditation other than AMBA. I would think coupling accreditation and a long history of excellence they would take huge strides in brand recognition. Logos come and go.

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