Reputation and branding of higher education

The world of higher education has undergone many changes in order to survive in the competitive environment. The thought process of the students and the faculty members along with the development in new technologies, are changing the environment of higher education. This change created the need for both collaboration and competition between the countries across the world. The term ‘globalization’ is not only popular in the business world but also famous with the educational institutions. Globalization is defined as the influence created by any organisation or business on an international level. In other words, globalization is the process of increasing worldwide connections. Nowadays, the educational institutions have not limited themselves within a certain region but stretched their hands internationally with the help of branding. A ‘brand’ is defined as a symbol, name, mark or a logo mainly used by the companies to distinguish their products from others. According to Oxford dictionary, a brand (noun) is ‘a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name’ or to ‘promote ( a particular product or company) by means of advertising and distinctive design’. Due to the perceived risks attached with handling new services, customers prefer to stick to the ones that they are familiar with, that they can trust. Branding is a long term process that gradually grows with time if proper service is provided. It depends on the quality of service and goods supplied to the customers according to their demands. Similarly, a good education depends on the quality of the faculty members and the knowledge provided to the students. 


In higher education, the outcome of the knowledge at the end of the day is very little. It is not possible to have the accurate information of what is actually learned and the benefits derived from the knowledge provided. This is why other factors are incorporated in order to increase their brand names. Reputed teachers are hired, up to date facilities are made available, extra curricular activities are increased in number in order to attract the students. The quality of a product is considered good if the price is higher. Similarly, the brand name of an institution depends on how expensive the institution is. The academic qualification of the incoming students and the number of rejecting candidates also contributes in making a college or a university popular. Most importantly, the age of an institution plays a great factor for the brand name. Older the institution, greater are the chances of admission. Competency based learning and good outcomes adds to the brand name of that institution. Good reviews attract many students just like a product is reviewed before buying it. A strong brand name symbolizes the quality of knowledge and experience provided by the institution. Brand name promises the same quality and experience that the students expect. In order for a brand to be effective, the institution must keep up with their consistent performance. If the students can be convinced to become passionate with a certain brand name, they more likely choose that brand over others. Therefore, an institute should use their brand name as a magnet that can attract more and more students. This can be done through marketing and publicity through various means, especially through digital platforms, where most of the students can be reached. Governments in different parts of the world have started developing attractive policies based on the quality of education. 


Brand and reputation dominates each other. According to Ettenson and Knowles, “Simply put, a brand is a ‘customer centric’ concept that focuses on what a product, service or company has promised to its customers and what that commitment means to them. Reputation is a ‘company centric’ concept that focuses on the credibility and respect that an organisation has among a broad set of constituencies, including employees, investors, regulators, journalists and local communities - as well as customers. In other words, brand is about relevancy and differentiation (with respect to the customer), and reputation is about legitimacy (of the organisation with respect to a wide range of stakeholder groups, including but not limited to customers)”. The interpretation (brand) of the students about an institution depends on how the institution is viewed in a broader sense (reputation). Colleges and universities provide education on different levels like bachelors, masters, associate, PhD, research and many more. Branding depends on the evaluation of past and present of an institution, whereas reputation depends on the people’s perception about that institution. A good brand impression can be created by means of a good advertisement, but creating a good reputation is beyond the control of an institution. Reputation completely depends on the students’ review about the institution. Once the institution makes a good brand name, everyone will give it a priority. But if its reputation starts to fall, even a good brand name is of no use. According to Ted Rubin, ‘A brand is what a business does, reputation is what people remember.’ A good reputation not only includes providing good knowledge but also disciplinary actions and extra curricular activities. An institution with a good impression can attract different foreign programmes, such as, student exchange programmes, creating distance education overseas or providing scholarships. Campaigning, volunteer work and social activities can contribute in gaining a good reputation.


Overall, it can be concluded that though brand and reputation seems to be the same, the two are quite different from each other. Reputation adds to the brand value of an institution, but brand name alone is difficult to attract many students. There are a few instances where students get admitted to an institution just because it is old and carries an age old brand name, though its reputation is bad. Presently, education is becoming more about business rather than providing the students with good facilities. The students are just the degree holders without the depth of knowledge. The future depends on how the students choose a proper institution - brand name, reputation or both?


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Blog Post written by:
Oindrila Langal
Intern
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