Building a sector reputation: the strategic communication of national higher education
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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What characterises strategic communication aimed at building the reputation of an entire public subsector? This is the main question for this study, pursued through content analysis of one-stop web portals for national higher education from the 21 countries listed in the Times Higher Education’s Top 150 Universities ranking. Findings show that strategic communication is formed by national governments to depict their higher education sector as a coherent whole without letting prominent universities “represent” the higher education sector. The tension between similarity and difference that often occurs in public sector reputation-building is handled partly by emphasising similarity concerns in the structure and format of the presentations, and partly by emphasising differentiation concerns in the contents of the presentations. Furthermore, in contrast to previous studies addressing either the reputation management and branding efforts of single institutions, specific public sector entities, or those of nations, this study shows how higher education reputation-building integrates these different levels through strategic communication.