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What defines “successful” university brands?

Chris Chapleo (Portsmouth University Business School, Portsmouth, UK)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 2 March 2010




Branding in universities has become an increasingly topical issue among practitioners, with some institutions committing substantial financial resources to branding activities. Although it is receiving increased academic investigation, to date this has been limited. The particular characteristics of the sector present challenges for those seeking to build brands and it therefore seems timely and appropriate to investigate the common properties of those universities perceived as having successful brands; this paper aims to do that.


The study employs qualitative research techniques in an exploratory study, examining the institutions perceived to be “successful” in terms of brand management, and seeking to explore any commonalities of approach or circumstance.


The findings and conclusions identify issues surrounding university branding activity. It was found that even among those brands considered “successful”, challenges such as lack of internal brand engagement and limited international resonance may be apparent. Certain common positive success factors are also suggested, however.

Research limitations/implications

Exploration of the literature does point to a gap that makes this work challenging – a seeming lack of knowledge underpinning the precise objectives of university branding programmes. In other words; it is hard to measure how successful university brands are when there is little empirical literature on the aims of branding in universities.


From an academic viewpoint gaps in current literature on branding in the education context are identified and the need for a model of brand management that addresses the particular qualities of higher education is reinforced.



Chapleo, C. (2010), "What defines “successful” university brands?", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 23 No. 2, pp. 169-183.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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