2020 Vision: The Year in Reputation

2020 promises to be another year which presents increasing challenges to universities operating globally, whilst providing opportunities to grow profile and embed reputation as a key pillar of institutional strategy and delivery.

Elections in 2019 in a range of countries, from Finland to Canada, Australia to the UK, will increasingly shape major policy and impact directly on universities, not always in a positive way.  The march of populist parties may have been slowed in some parts of the world; but the challenge for universities – often seen as key parts of the global elite – remains, and reputation management will undoubtedly continue to grow in importance.

Climate change will continue to build as a leading issue of political and public discourse, with the devasting Australian fires upmost in many minds, More positively, the opportunities provided by Glasgow hosting the next UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November 2020 will give a platform to universities to demonstrate impact.

Challenges in the digital sphere are also likely to accelerate in the coming year, with the tensions around the increasingly monopolistic tendencies of the tech giants, as well as the roles of China and Russia. Universities will continue to need to adapt both to threats and to the changing expectations of key audiences in the digital space, particularly students.

All of these issues require a dynamic response from universities and reputation building will have an increasingly important role to play. Some key challenges for leaders in university reputation over the coming year will be:


How we measure reputation, beyond the limited indications provided by the World Rankings, will be key The pilot year of the W100 International Reputation Tracker will give member universities an insight into the challenges of measuring reputation across a range of audiences; and the results in the Autumn will give us a wealth of new data (and, we promise, will not be turned into a new League Table!).


Reputation increasingly has a place at the top table in universities – although not in every country and institution. Much progress has been made in moving reputation management from being a largely reactive process. The W100 Annual Conference in Melbourne will have a focus on strategy, showcasing, and debating the part reputation can play in successful global universities.


Last year’s W100 Annual Conference in Manchester highlighted how universities are meeting the challenge of engaging with local communities to show how their work makes a difference. The pressure continues to mount on the sector to find new ways of demonstrating their value to society.  A great deal of effort is going on across the sector to engage with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Can World 100 member universities repeat – and enhance- their stellar performance in the next edition of the THE Impact Rankings, based on the SDGs, in April 2020?