Reputation Management Revisited: U.S. Universities Presenting Themselves Online
This chapter examines how American universities make use of reputation management on their websites. It replicates a design piloted with Nordic universities, employing similar methodology (“web census”) and indicators. Universities often make strategic decisions about which aspects of institutional identity to emphasize in order to maintain legitimacy (“survive”) or gain competitive advantage (“thrive”). This study analyzes six online dimensions (history, strategic planning, research, academics, internal, and external environment) for a nationally-representative sample of 124 universities versus a subset of 28 elite universities. The findings reveal key differences, with a considerable gap on one dimension (research) and a surprising inversion on another (strategic planning). Furthermore, decoupling can occur between universities’ online presence and their performance, which is both an opportunity and a pitfall of reputation management.
KeywordsAcademic league tables Elite universities Institutional diversity Organizational actor Professionalization Socially-embedded university
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