A key session at the World 100 Reputation Network annual conference in Montreal in October 2022 focused on how universities are engaging with governments in the post-pandemic world and using those relations as a key driver of institutional reputation.

Andrea Farquhar, Assistant Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs at McMaster University chaired the session, with contributions from Kirsten Andrews, Vice Principal, External Relations at The University of Sydney, and Alex Favier, Head of Global Reputation at the University of Nottingham.

Each speaker brought a wealth of experience in engaging with governments and reflected on the developments over recent years influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The discussion focused on the following key factors:

  1. The status of government/policymakers as priority stakeholders for universities was transformed during the pandemic and has the potential to remain strengthened
  2. Students have been a key focus for university/government relationships, particularly international students and those being trained in health-related professions
  3. Research and industry partnerships are increasingly part of the conversation and expected to be so in an area of supply chain shortage, commercialization and knowledge economy focus
  4. The relationship - and the reputational focus - has to be based on solutions, not just show and tell (on both sides). It’s about them not you!
  5. Engagement with international governments - particularly through effective us of visits - can be a key driver of global reputation development
  6. When governments change, a phased approach to engagement is critical - don't try and overload relationships whilst the pieces are still moving and don’t forget those who are no longer in the governing party
  7. A tiered approach to identifying and cultivating contacts in government and policymaking is critical both in terms of effective us of resources – focusing more attention to top tiers for example - and in cultivating rising stars for future impact.
  8. Getting the right balance of joint engagement through university lobbying groups and direct engagement is important: difficult messages are often better delivered jointly
  9. While the judicious use of the media is vital - not all government engagement should be public

Details of other sessions at the conference are available to members of the World 100 Reputation Network here.

Andrea Farqhuar_World 100 Conference