Consultancies line up for university branding jobs

The University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies is undertaking a major re-evaluation of its 87-year-old brand and has shortlisted three consultancies for the work.

Head of student recruitment Catherine Baldwin, who is leading the study, would not confirm which groups were involved, but says she hopes to make a decision in the next few months.

The work will initially comprise the SOAS prospectus, which must be published in June to catch the September student intake. An identity revamp has not been ruled out.

The school is about to start internal research with branding consultancy Mindworks to find out ‘what the school stands for’, says Baldwin. ‘Mindworks’ findings will feed into our design work. If it emerges that we need to redesign our [tree] logo, we will,’ Baldwin states.

The re-evaluation has been triggered by a lack of recognition of SOAS, an assumption that it offers fewer courses than it actually does and external Government initiatives such as targets for increasing student numbers, she says.

Meanwhile, Manchester University is holding ‘informal meetings’ with several consultancies about a new identity, following confirmation earlier this month that it will merge with the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.

The merger, which comes into effect in September 2004, will involve a new identity and possibly a new name, says Manchester University head of public relations Alan Ferns. A competitive pitch will be held down the line.

‘It’s an interesting brief. We need to establish an identity for the single institution, but retain the strong heritage of both universities. And we must avoid painting ourselves as a new university, which has former polytechnic connotations,’ Ferns says.

Universities are looking more closely at their brand identities in the wake of external initiatives from the Government and increased competition in the sector as universities vie to attract students and funding.

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