Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Brand Recall

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Brand Recall

Article excerpt

Last week's report that King's College London has dropped its plan to become known as King's London has rekindled the debate on institutional rebrands. Harriet Line considers the dos and don'ts of name changes - and whether it is really worth it

Use 'London' in your title

Although it is more than 400 miles away, a photograph of London features on the home page of Glasgow Caledonian University's website. Marketing gone mad, you ask? Not quite: it has a postgraduate campus in the nation's capital. GCU London specialises in finance, fashion and marketing, and opened in 2010.

Increasingly, institutions a little closer to the capital are also including London in their name. Thames Valley University became the University of West London in 2011, Brunel University added London to its title last year after gaining permission from the Privy Council, and others that use the capital in their title include Kingston University and Middlesex University.

According to Paul Temple, reader emeritus at the UCL Institute of Education, adding London to a name suggests that an institution is part of the illustrious Golden Triangle with Oxford and Cambridge. It also evokes the glamour and culture unmatched by any other UK city, in an effort to hook prospective international students and British countryside dwellers alike, he said.

Imitate Hogwarts

Maximise the history. Students love institutions with pedigree: the older, the better. The websites of the universities of Durham, Edinburgh and Newcastle are littered with images of their oldest buildings. So much so, that you could be forgiven for thinking that the entire city around the university is ancient and ornate.

In the past decade, it seems, modern universities have gone out of fashion. Winston Kwon, Chancellor's fellow in strategy in the University of Edinburgh's business school, suggests that the popularity of the Harry Potter books has played a part in the shift, with J. K. Rowling's work offering a fantasy-world remix of the Oxbridge aesthetic. Dining halls with vaulted ceilings impress applicants looking for a "traditional" education, which tends to correlate well with strong performance in the league tables. Adopting a traditional coat of arms, a Latin motto, and if possible a castle, will surely make those Ucas applications come flying owl, of course.

Names are not everything

Assume that anyone applying to university realises that institutions' names are illogical. International applicants will probably be familiar with the set-up in the US, which is even more of a minefield, as the terms "college" and "university" are used more or less interchangeably. Although Queen Mary University of London dropped "college" from its official title (Queen Mary and Westfield College) when it legally changed its name in 2013, Kwon observes that the difference was simply semantics: changing a college to a university makes no difference.

Instead, he contends, sometimes vice-chancellors and provosts may be meddling for the sake of it. "It's easy for people at the top to forget what the market is like," he says. Prospective students look at subject league tables first, and opt for the best institutions they think they have a chance of getting into. Where King's College London or University College London feature, students are unlikely to mistake them for further education establishments.

Sound as British as possible

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have worked wonders for their alma mater, the University of St Andrews. Guests paid as much as $10,000 (£6,400) a ticket at a recent fundraising dinner in New York attended by the royal couple, and the ensuing publicity was impressive. …

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