An Education in Reputation

Ben Rowe - Account Executive

Ben Rowe – Account Executive

According to the 2017 World Reputation Rankings, released by the Times Higher Education, Asian universities have now overtaken the top Western institutions as the most prestigious in the world.

Universities in China, Japan and Hong Kong have boasted significant progress, while top institutions in Belgium, France and the Netherlands have lost ground.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, universities in the US dominate the list with Harvard, MIT and Stanford maintaining their positions as the top three respectively.

The rankings are based on an invitation-only opinion survey of senior, published academics, asked to name no more than 15 universities that they believe are the best for research and teaching in their field, based on their own experience.


Source: Cambridge University

Source: Cambridge University


Interestingly, these rankings offer a contrast to the World University Rankings, which largely measure research performance. Asian universities have failed to show the same progress in these charts, emphasising a gap between perceived and actual performance of universities across the globe. For example, Tsinghua University in China ranks 14th in the world for reputation yet comes in at 35th in the World University Rankings. Similarly, there are 12 places separating Peking University across the two ranking systems.

The University of Oxford has once again come out on top in the World Rankings but despite this, consistently finds itself outside of the top three for global reputation.

This phenomenon, of course, does not apply only to universities. Marketing, brand awareness and reputation can go a long way to achieving great success, in addition to the delivery of top quality goods and services.

Phil Baty, editor of Times Higher Education Rankings, explains that “reputation is subjective, nebulous and difficult to pin down – but it really matters…it both reflects success and also drives success.”

If your reputation remains unjustified for a prolonged period, the chances are you will be found out and your prestige diminished over time. However, if people perceive your brand as high quality and esteemed, it allows you to attract the best staff, customers, partnerships, funding and in the case of universities, students. All of these can contribute to pushing actual quality up in line with that of reputation.


Source: Tsinghua University

Source: Tsinghua University


Simon Marginson, director of the Centre for Global Higher Education at the UCL Institute of Education, commented that there is “no doubt that the reputation of China’s top two universities has run ahead of their actual achievements.” However, he claims there is little doubt that in time these institutions will be acclaimed for their quality on a more evidential basis.

As difficult as it is to put a price on reputation, according to Forbes, as much as 95% of the average corporation’s value consisted of tangible assets three decades ago. Today, it is reported that 75% of value is intangible in nature.

With information so readily accessible in 2017, coupled with the advancement of the internet, the environment in which firms seek to bolster their brand is increasingly intense, with news, comments and opinions spreading like wildfire. Good brand campaigns and positive publicity can have a similarly strong impact as bloopers and poor practice.

These rankings only offer an insight into reputation, an issue which extends across sectors. Acceleris has a history of managing reputation in a number of specialist areas. In 2013, we worked with the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) to challenge negative perceptions of UK fishermen and to defend the industry’s reputation. Hitting the ground running, the work we did secured 88 pieces of coverage in the first month, of which 89% were positive and laid foundations for a much higher media profile including an appearance on Newsnight.


National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations

National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations Coverage Montage


Managing reputation doesn’t have to be a defensive measure, however. There is a great opportunity to shout about achievements, building an attractive profile to prospective customers and employees. Acceleris has worked with, and helped secure awards for, clients in a range of sectors including health and wellness, motoring and charity. Being recognised by awards programmes as a top employer, a high-growth company, for offering excellent customer service and/or providing top quality goods and services is a great way of propelling your reputation and taking your brand to the next level.

Whether in times of crisis or just to stay ahead of the game by emphasising your strengths, managing your reputation is becoming increasingly crucial. History is one thing but your customers, potential partners, sponsors or employees want to know what you’re doing to help them today. The university reputation rankings show that standing still and resting on your laurels can erode public perception in what you consider to be a strong, reputable, even institutional brand. Stay ahead of the game and shout about your achievements or you may find yourselves behind more active, media-savvy competitors.

If you need support boosting your brand or reigniting your reputation, get in touch by emailing or give us a call on 0845 4567 251.

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