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How to manage the reputation of universities?

Roundtable "Reputation Management in Higher Education: the New Challenge for Universities", organized by the editorial board of the journal “Higher Education in Russia and Beyond”, Center for Institutional Studies and Laboratory of Education Economics of the Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg, took place on July 1.

How to manage the reputation of universities?

The roundtable was moderated by Magdalena Alejandra Gaete Sepulveda (executive editor of the new issue of “Higher Education in Russia and Beyond”, senior researcher at the HSE Laboratory of Education Economics) and Victor Rudakov (senior researcher, deputy head of the International Laboratory for Institutional Analysis of Economic Reforms at Center for Institutional Studies, deputy editor-in-chief of the “Higher Education in Russia and Beyond”.

List of speakers:

  • Alan Ferns, Associate Vice-Chancellor for Communication and Reputation, The Manchester University (UK)
  • Elena Chernishkova, Director: Centre of Philanthropy and CSR research, Ural Federal University (Ekaterinburg, Russia)
  • Elena Shakina, Director of International Laboratory of Intangible-driven Economy, HSE University (Saint-Petersburg, Russia)
  • Aurora Díaz Soloaga, Senior lecturer: School of Management, Almaty Management University (Almaty, Kazakhstan)
  • Santiago Fernández-Gubieda, Director of the Reputation Unit, University of Navarra (Spain)

The summer issue of "Higher Education in Russia and Beyond" is devoted to the topic of the reputation of universities. It covers themes from conceptualization to crisis management in the context of a pandemic, from the logic of international rankings to building a reputation in non-metropolitan universities, from healthy relations between the university's third mission and reputation to the role of graduates and accreditation. Although reputation may seem like an obvious asset when analyzing it and especially when managing it, we are faced with the complexity of interpersonal relationships with stakeholders and different ways of understanding excellence and quality. The executive editor of the issue became the moderator of the roundtable, and the authors of the texts included in the issue managed to speculate on a number of issues related to the reputation management of universities.


Why do universities need a reputation?

The reputation of a university is an intangible asset located at the intersection of communications, education, and management. All the speakers agreed that reputation should be developed by all universities and that reputation is one of the most important assets.

Answering the question about why universities need to develop a reputation, Alan Ferns noted that it is important for managers in the field of reputation management to clearly understand what is meant by the concept of "reputation", which Elena Chernyshkova later agreed with. Alan Ferns also told what difficulties specialists face when trying to measure the reputation of universities and what universities should do to manage their reputation. Elena Chernyshkova explained to the audience that it is much more difficult for more well-known universities to manage their reputation. She also spoke about the features of the reputation management of universities in Russia.

Elena Shakina told what universities should do to build a strong reputation, and also discussed why human resources are a very important aspect of a strong reputation of universities. The opinion of the specialist in the field of management Aurora Díaz Soloaga was also presented in the discussion.. She noted that reputation should become a central link in the development of strategic decisions by universities and explained how universities should build a strategy for their development.

In conclusion, Santiago Fernandez-Cariedo added that, in his opinion, the key element in reputation management should be considered the management of the perception of the university. Then he spoke about why it is so important that the decisions made by universities correspond to how the university is perceived by stakeholders.

 

The "Third Mission" of universities

The speakers unanimously noted the importance of social responsibility for universities, since universities educate future generations, instill in young people the values with which these people go through life in the future.

Alan Ferns believes that social responsibility is an element that should be given a lot of attention. He also explained why social responsibility is so important for universities. Elena Chernyshkova added that universities in Russia are important elements from the point of view of social development, and explained in what sense, what missions universities fulfill in society. Elena Shakina agreed with the speakers that universities are engaged in the education of young people, so universities need to be socially responsible.

Aurora Díaz Soloaga also noted that social responsibility is a necessary aspect of the reputation of universities, and cited AlmaU as an example to show how a university can develop in the field of social responsibility. Santiago Fernández-Gubieda also gave the example of another university – the University of Navarre.

 

Are rankings a business or a reputation measurement tool?

Experts could not answer the question unequivocally whether rankings are an effective tool for measuring reputation or whether it is just a business. For example, Alan Ferns tried to explain why we should still treat rankings with some degree of suspicion, and told about some of the weaknesses of this tool. Elena Chernyshkova also discussed why we should not overestimate the rankings, and noted that we should remember the big difference between what a university is and how it looks in the rankings.

Elena Shakina, on the contrary, is inclined to believe that, despite all the criticism of rankings as a tool for measuring the reputation of universities, there is no better tool at the moment.

Aurora Díaz Soloaga discussed whether rankings are important for stakeholders and whether rankings can still be used as a tool for measuring reputation. Santiago Fernández-Gubieda spoke about what the rankings show and how they help universities.

The video of the roundtable is available at the link.