Communicating Higher Education: Image and Reality, 26 and 27 August 2004 at the OECD Headquarters, Paris


This seminar examined how higher education is evolving in OECD countries and how the image projected by universities and other HEIs shapes their mission.

As higher education has moved from elite to mass education, new demands have arisen. Demographic trends can make supply and demand unbalanced - geographically or with regard to study areas. The limited enrolment at some institutions, which may have to merge to survive, and problems with recruiting enough natural science and technology students, are just two examples.

Other aspects of image and external relations are related to the need for HEIs to widen their admission base and recruit more students from less privileged backgrounds and a further area where image is important is their international recruitment.

How institutions see themselves in ranking-lists and league tables is becoming increasingly important in the public eye. Whether fair or not, good scores on such lists are essential in order to generate sufficient funding, whether from public or private sources, and to attract good students and staff.

In many countries all this has led to increased competition in the fields mentioned and more focus on communication strategies. Making efforts to present the right image and convey the right message is no longer considered as a peripheral marginal activity, subordinate to main core activities of teaching, research and services. It has become part of the central overall strategies of institutions and often involves the allocation of important financial and human resources.

Furthermore, the ongoing internationalisation and globalisation of higher education means that the choices open to students and researchers have become wider. Institutions therefore must make new and better efforts to present their image while being aware of the dangers of overselling. This also affects their relations to other stakeholders, not least since financing is becoming more diversified and expectations are growing that universities shall make better use of research results and communicate them better, also as part of their engagement in the development of their regions.

The seminar presented perspectives and experiences from a range of countries. These different outlooks provided background for discussions between participants willing to share solutions from institutions, which have solved their particular problems and which therefore may serve as examples of good practice for others.


IMHE Info "Communication: a key aspect of the strategy and governance of higher education institutions"