We hear a lot about the importance of the reputation of a university; but what does it really mean and how can you influence such a reputation?
Apart from the direct consequences of having a “good” reputation, e.g. recruiting staff and students, as well as people trusting you, reputation is measured as part of university league tables, especially international ones like the Times Higher Education (THE) Young University Rankings (YUR) and the QS World University Rankings (WUR). For 2021, our rankings in these tables have both declined a little, placing us at 122nd out of 475 in the YUR and in the 651-700 grouping for the WUR. Our scores for several of the data metrics used have increased (citations, teaching and research reputations, income, etc); it’s just that other universities have scored equally well, or sometimes better. With respect to other UK modern universities, we still remain near the top in these tables, but we are not top modern yet.
The most opaque part of many of these global rankings is their reputational surveys, which are largely confidential, albeit for good reason. Expert academic and research peers from around the world are asked about us, or asked to name universities they are aware of either through mutual respect and/or collaboration. So a lack of recognition turns into a poor reputation!
This is one reason why we need to shout about our great research and innovation, and why in the last few years colleagues in RIS and Marketing have been encouraging us to publicise our successes through a host of media and popular academic outlets. Many of you may have received an email from me saying “Well done, please talk to our comms people!”
So, how are we doing? Let’s start with The Conversation. We have seen significant and steady engagement with this online academic platform. We published 83 articles in 2020 from 56 UoP authors, gaining over 4 million reads, most of which were outside the UK. Such performance regularly puts us in the top 10 of UK universities for both articles and readership, and helps drive additional media coverage for our work – e.g. last year there were over 14,000 media articles and interviews with our academics (an increase of 44% on 2019). While The Conversation is no substitute for a great journal article, it is an exciting and fun way to communicate the outcomes of such peer reviewed research to a wide and diverse audience. I would encourage everyone to think about writing for The Conversation immediately after submitting to the journal!
I am also proud of our recent launch of the SOLVE magazine and its associated podcasts, Life Solved. The third edition of SOLVE will land in September and will profile some of our REF2021 impact case studies in slightly more accessible language for the general public. You will be able to find a copy of SOLVE through the THE magazine and The Chronicle of Higher Education magazine as well as UK circulation in the Sunday Times and The Guardian. Since its launch in 2019, SOLVE has been read by millions of international readers (top five countries are UK, Australia, US, Spain, Denmark), with an average duration of over 7 minutes per interaction, indicating that people are enjoying the content and establishing a deep connection with us.
The performance of our podcast Life Solved is even more impressive, with 48 episodes already produced since last year. With over 7000 listeners so far, with an average listening time of 15 minutes, these podcasts are proving popular, especially in the UK, US and Europe.
Let me end by thanking everyone involved in our media and reputation-building activity, including all those who made themselves available to discuss their research and innovation, as well as the teams in Marketing and RIS who provide the support, training and sometimes words to describe all the great stuff we are doing. Building a reputation is important (not just for league tables!) and takes time and effort. I hope this blog has shown you that we have a strategy to help build that reputation but that we need everyone to continue to help and engage in the process of sharing all our great work and our many achievements. If you’d like to know more, or want to discuss opportunities like receiving media training, please contact our Press and Media team.
I will end with one final request that goes out to everyone at the University – please make sure you are promoting the University’s “brand” in all your external interactions, helping build that long-term recognition and reputation. This could be as simple as including a slide promoting the University as part of an academic presentation, highlighting some of these great stories when you talk to business and international partners, or sending your friends and relations a digital copy of the SOLVE magazine!