Increasingly, institutions a little closer to the capital are including London in their name. Thames Valley University became the University of West London in 2011, Brunel University added London to its title in 2014 after gaining permission from the Privy Council, and others that use the capital in their title include Kingston University and Middlesex University.
According to Paul Temple, reader emeritus at the UCL Institute of Education, adding London to a name suggests that an institution is part of the illustrious Golden Triangle with Oxford and Cambridge. It also evokes the glamour and culture unmatched by any other UK city, in an effort to hook prospective international students and British countryside dwellers alike, he said.
Maximize the history. Students love institutions with pedigree: the older, the better. The websites of the universities of Durham, Edinburgh and Newcastle are littered with images of their oldest buildings. So much so, that you could be forgiven for thinking that the entire city around the university is ancient and ornate.
Winston Kwon, Chancellor’s fellow in strategy in the University of Edinburgh’s business school, suggests that the popularity of the Harry Potter books has played a part in the shift, with J. K. Rowling’s work offering a fantasy-world remix of the Oxbridge aesthetic.
Dining halls with vaulted ceilings impress applicants looking for a “traditional” education, which tends to correlate well with strong performance in the league tables. Adopting a traditional coat of arms, a Latin motto, and if possible a castle, will surely make those Ucas applications come flying in…by owl, of course.
Adopting a regal-style name is a relatively easy way to woo the international crowd. Royal Holloway, Queen Mary and Imperial all sound royally English, something the likes of the University of Westminster and Regent’s University London (which cannily also has the capital in its name) may have tried to emulate.
Students at King’s College London set up an e-petition to stop the institution’s rebranding plans, which they labelled “bizarre”. They added that the change would “undermine almost 200 years of tradition” at “huge and unnecessary expense”.
According to Kwon, “Rebranding on its own is like putting a new coat of paint on an old house. If the house has been thoughtfully updated, then the paint is a symbol of that, and will resonate with the target audience.” However, “if it is just a coat of paint on a tired structure, then people quickly see through it because the message doesn’t resonate”.