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    Is much of a university's impact just down to PR,? Is it all about spin, the capacity to co-opt opinion formers and key media figures and academics so that they endorse a positive view of your institution? Does this then feed itself into league tables and application rates?

    Sussex, a university whose fortunes have varied enormously in the 40-odd years of its existence, seems to endorse this thesis. It came out of nowhere and for 15-20 years it was one of the most fashionable universities in the UK, with a strong international name to match. Then, just as it started to build the academic credentials to match the glitz, it started to go out of fashion. Irony abounds. In fact, the more it did real world academic stuff the less fashionable it became.

    And now it's make-over time. There's been a re-branding and applications are up and so are A Level entry grades (around 25 points from 30). Winess this extract the other from the Indy:

    'Which is the coolest university in the United Kingdom? Some teenagers might choose Leeds (for its nightlife and urban grit), others Nottingham (for its academic reputation and campus-on-the-edge-of the city). But increasingly, bright young things are opting for Sussex, the ultimate Sixties institution that is being reinvented for the 21st century and last week was given what is known in marketing-speak as a new visual identity. That means that the university is dropping its conventional-looking crest in favour of the very simple "us" logo, for University of Sussex (geddit?) on its letterhead.

    Goodbye tradition, hello minimalist, lower case design. Sussex has had a makeover. All its literature will be given the new design treatment, courtesy of the company, Blast, and words will be set in a unique typeface called University of Sussex Baskerville Titling, which has been specially designed. The new logo comes with a beautiful new prospectus. On the cover is a pretty girl in a funky hat who sums up the fun time you will have at Sussex, an echo of the glamour lent to the institution by the Jay twins in the Sixties.

    The new design identity is based on the vision and values of the university, which are set out in the Annual Review as the "Spirit of Sussex", says Professor Alastair Smith, the vice-chancellor, in a letter to staff. "That is a statement of what we aspire to be as a university: pioneering, creative, international, excellent, engaging and challenging," says Professor Smith.

    ...... the university has put a great deal of effort into re-engineering itself. Before the design exercise, the university employed the image consultants, Circus, to ask students, staff and others what Sussex represented. They emphasised its roots as an institution that was different, with an interdisciplinary approach to study, and with a strong commitment to internationalism and social engagement. The university's new design seeks to encapsulate those ideas. Hence the radical new typography and the "us" logo which is literally and figuratively inclusive...'
 
 
 

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