Forming a Brand Identity is Essential for Young Universities

Brand identity

Most universities gain a reputation or persona over time. For elite colleges that perceived identity comes with age, prestige and notable alumni, but for younger institutions, without centuries of history behind them, a different way of cultivating an identity has to be found.

With many international students stating that their university decision is based on prestige and reputation, things which come with age, how can younger institutions compete? The answer lies in creating a unique identity, which resonates with students and accurately reflects the institution.

There are a number of young universities across the world which have moulded their own identity in just this way. Here are four of our favourites:

The University of Bath


The University of Bath emerged from a century-old technical school within the city, and it wasn’t until the 1960s that the institution first gained ‘university’ status. The university embraces its history by placing a heavy focus on work experience, and strongly encouraging students to work for a year in industry as part of their course.

This is a huge selling point for students, who are attracted to the strong graduate employment rates and the focus on real-world experience at a time where competition for graduate roles is higher than ever.

The University of Bath was voted the best university in the UK for student experience in 2015, and often tops the polls for other similar awards. The institution is a great example of a university which has taken all the strengths of its pre-university history and turned them into real attributes.

Maastricht University


Founded in 1976, Maastricht University is the second youngest university in the Netherlands.

The university was first created due to a shortage of medical professionals in the country, when the government opened a new facility to train medical staff. The university’s medical department is now amongst the world’s best, placed 45th in the world in 2014 according to the QS World University Rankings®.

The School of Business and Economics is the crowning glory of the institution, accredited as it is by EQUIS, AACSB and the Association of MBAs. This is something achieved by only 1% of business schools in the world.

The university embraces its international culture, with around 47% of the student population coming from different countries. Degrees are taught in Dutch and English, and an embrace of different cultures and nationalities is celebrated throughout the institution. This reputation has been built through integration with foreign facilities, student associations and connections – turning the university into a well-known, highly coveted place to study.

University of Calgary


The University of Calgary was founded as an independent university in 1966, and today stands as one of Canada’s top research universities. Originally a teacher-training institute, the university has defied its relatively recent beginnings to become one of the top universities in the country, and one of the top 200 worldwide.

The location of the university, coupled with its industry links and ties with major engineering and geoscience companies, means it’s gained an excellent reputation for engineering and science. A number of major inventions, including the neurochip, have been developed at the university, and its alumni include 11 Rhodes Scholars.

By focussing on the areas the university excels at, it has developed a solid brand identity.

Université Paris Dauphine


Université Paris Dauphine is another relatively modern university considered to be amongst the best. Founded for economics and management in 1968, in the former NATO headquarters, the university specialises in management, economics, law, political science, sociology, applied mathematics, management information systems and languages.

The teaching in the institution is well-renowned, and its high academic requirements put it amongst some of the most elite in France, despite its young age. How can other young institutions foster the prestige shown by University Paris Dauphine? The answer lies in making connections and offering quality.

The strategic objectives of the university are:

  • Building strategic academic partnerships with prestigious French institutions, notably under the PSL initiative for excellence;
  • Strengthening Dauphine’s international perspective;
  • Reinforcing and diversifying our financial resources.

This focus on forming relationships with other institutions has helped Université Paris Dauphine to develop an identity as a leading university. In an increasingly globalised society, universities need to be ever more outward looking; University Paris Dauphine has 180 agreements with universities in more than 40 countries and joint diplomas with institutions in Spain and Germany.


So, it is not impossible for universities without the history of Oxford to become world-renowned, sought-after establishments. The key is to focus on what the core of the institution’s offering, what makes it unique and which niche it can fill, and to market accordingly.

Want to find out more about forming a brand identity?

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