Riding the Tiger: 2018/19

Riding the Tiger - Enhancing the role of reputation in international partnerships 2018-19

International partnerships between universities have traditionally been forged around student mobility, research collaborations, networks, and recruitment progression routes, which are determined by a range of factors (academic, financial etc.). However, the role of reputation in partnerships, and in particular those that universities describe as 'strategic', has not been comprehensively researched. The Word 100 Reputation Network has for the past decade and more undertaken annual research projects to push the boundaries of the understanding of reputation in global high education.

Our 2018/2019 Research project aimed to answer some key questions around the role of reputation in international partnerships. Who is responsible within institutions for the development and promotion of partnerships? What are the keys to successful working relationships amongst internal stakeholders? How effectively are universities using international partnerships to enhance their institutional brand and global profile and how prepared are they for any negative reputational changes their partners might encounter?

In consultation with World 100 members, we created an online survey tool to explore the role of reputation in international partnerships. The survey was designed to be completed by senior colleagues working in both communications and marketing and international/global affairs at top universities around the world. The two routes largely mirrored one another with slight variations to assess the current and perceived ideal level of support from corporate communications team in the development and promotion of international partnerships.

Between April and June of 2019 we invited directors of both functions at universities in the world’s top 200 (based on ranking in each of the four major world rankings used for Network membership eligibility – THE, QS, ARWU and US News and World Report), including those ranked as the top young universities.

Take a look at a few key findings below: 

Top 3 Factors for International Partnerships

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Understanding of Reputation Management

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Consideration of World Rankings

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Importance of Rankings

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The survey covered the following topics:

  • Responsibility for international partnerships

  • Reputation and partner appeal

  • The importance of reputation when developing new international partnerships

  • Rankings

  • Using partnerships to build global profile

  • Identifying international partnerships with the greatest potential for reputational impact

  • Indicators of reputational value
  • Checklists

  • Measuring success and assessing brand value

  • The impact of negative changes to reputation

  • Collaboration between communications and international/global affairs

  • Identifying strategic partners

  • Communications strategies


The final report from the research, Riding the Tiger: Enhancing the Role of Reputation in International Partnerships, was published in November 2019.  Members of the W100 Network can access the report from the W100 Research Library. A summary of the report is available to non-Members that filled in the survey.

If you are interested in accessing the full research report, it will be made available to universities joining the World 100 Reputation Network. For the range of other benefits and how to join, click here.