This study of a university merger seeks to shed new light on reputation‐building, which has remained unexplored in the mergers and acquisitions (M&As) literature. It aims to study how key actors seek to build the reputation of the new university and how issues related to reputation become (re)constructed in different forums and vis‐à‐vis different stakeholders.
The paper offers a longitudinal critical discourse analysis of a merger of three universities in Finland. The qualitative empirical material comprises university communications materials and media texts.
The study illustrates dynamics of reputation‐building in a university merger. It shows how the need to become an innovative “world‐class” university acts as an imaginary incentive, and predictions of an inevitable future are used to legitimize radical actions. The study also highlights the contradictions and controversies involved.
The study complements extant M&As literature by offering a unique focus on reputation‐building. More broadly, it offers an empirically‐based critical analysis of university reform in the global economy. It suggests that the ways in which reputation‐building activities impact on the (dis‐)identification of academic staff in higher education reforms needs to be studied further.
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