Then there’s that last aspect: student reviews. There are certain challenges associated with this, particularly where high fees have fostered a culture of entitlement among students. Appeasement is not the name of the game here, though – that’s a losing battle.
We avoid reaching this stage by ensuring we offer a high-quality experience. Students must be academically supported, have access to pastoral care, and be given good advice on careers and further study. It’s essential to conduct internal research, and to have open channels of communication through which the student body can communicate its concerns and needs to us. Findings from such exercises must be addressed before they are allowed to reach breaking point – i.e. negative reviews.
Now, more than ever, cutting these corners is not something which anyone can get away with – nor should they be able to. Do so, and the world will very soon know. Crucially, student recruitment must reflect resources. Oversubscribing sub-par courses with underqualified cash-cow students will not escape the public gaze. On the other hand, satisfied, well-qualified alumni will come to serve as the best possible brand ambassadors.
Really, there’s no magic fix to building university reputation – and certainly no shortcuts. More than other aspect of branding, it’s about playing a long game, investing time and money in changes which may take many years to really be felt.
The difference is now that we have recourse to more data and more tools of communication than ever before. This means that we have more power to shape the story – building a more-focused narrative, focusing on specific areas.
In this context, reputation needn’t be measured on a generic scale, but one which has been carefully shaped and cultivated to match individual institutions.