Distinct Matters

In a crowded marketplace, and with uncertainty around funding and student numbers in the near future, a distinctive and compelling institutional identity has become essential for survival.

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are experiencing an increasingly competitive environment:

  • Difficult economic climate – funding sources are reduced in number and/or the amounts available
  • Constant change within the sector – new rules for existing HEIs and new competitors at home and abroad
  • Rising student expectations – rising fees, rising standards of living and increased competition for jobs mean that students demand more of an HEI

The need for distinctive positioning

Under these circumstances, the ability to engage and effectively communicate with stakeholders is becoming ever more critical. HEIs need to have a clear sense of who they are, as an organisation, and what they have to offer to their various stakeholders. Only then can they:

  • Confidently expound that offer to stakeholders
  • Attract students
  • Attract partners
  • Give clear direction to employees
  • Encourage identification with and loyalty to the institution

But the nature of the HE sector is such that many of the pressures tend to conformity: statutory requirements, standards, comparability, the emphasis on one dimension (research). Making your institution stand out from the rest isn’t easy.

Sharing knowledge, sharing insights

Even before Browne and the Comprehensive Spending Review, HEFCE initiated and funded this project, recognising that it is crucial for an institution to establish a distinctive positioning in an increasingly crowded HE sector.

Led by Oxford Brookes University, and in partnership with Bournemouth University and the University of Bradford, this project has aimed to capture successful practices and experiences for leading organisational change within the HE sector.

We have spoken to leaders both within and beyond the sector about how distinctiveness works for them, and sought to share these insights to help make distinctiveness deliver for our institutions.

Project now closed

This project is now finished and the content on the site is provided as an archive of the research.