In an increasingly competitive world it is not so surprising to see that Universities are now employing brand managers, PR experts and other gurus to propel them onto the celebrity most wanted list. Universities are more Global brands than houses of scholarly learning… Some may argue.

Many would propose that Universities should be just that, places of learning and research, whilst the opposition argue branding and reputation go hand-in-hand with the quality and performance of the institutions in question.

We all have our reasons for choosing the universities we attend, but how heavy did you focus on the brand and image of the institution you studied at? Choosing where we study goes on to have quite a defining role in what we then go on to do and how we may progress through our working lives. It can say quite a lot or very little about the people we are and circles we move in. In deciding where I studied for my PhD I took on board many variables but I remember the one defining factor was indeed the reputation of my supervisor and the exciting research he was involved in at the time within the Chemistry department… as it then was! His effervescent enthusiasm ignited my interest in materials science, something which has never left me.

This is what makes the latest survey conducted by Times Higher Education on The World University Rankings such a fascinating starting point to how Universities around the world are reacting to the society in which we live and the worlds economic demands.

One positive trend spotted in the report is how Japan has developed phenomenally in building its flagship University brands; with Kyoto University, Osaka, and the University of Tokyo, all featuring highly in the survey after reporting rapid growth in reputation. Our thoughts and wishes go out to Japan as more news of this devastating earthquake and Tsunami unfolds.

We recently saw the director of the London School of Economics (LSE), Sir Howard Davies relinquish his role after admitting that the University's links with Colonel Gaddafi, and his son Saif had damaged the reputation of the University, just how far their reputation has been damaged we have yet to see, but his shock departure has ignited a mood swing within many of our institutions to re-examine the relationship we have with other countries, their leaders and industry as a whole.

When does trying to build the reputation and improve on the research and learning in our institutions go just that little bit too far?

I would like to end this months editorial on a very sad note, we have recently lost a very dear friend, editorial board member and valued scientist; Professor Stoneham died on February 18th 2011 after a short illness and is survived by his wife and two daughters.

Read full text on ScienceDirect

DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(11)70069-4