Monday, 26 May 2014

Higher Education and Boots on the Ground

The economy keeps coming into these posts.
How's your corporate identity? In my case size 10 and the worse for wear.

Those attending the Wilder by Design event at Sheffield Hallam (SHU) organised by Ian Rotherham's UKEconet group were presented with a package of papers including abstracts and various articles mostly from Rotherham himself. I thought the flavour of them was interesting enough to draw some tentative conclusions. The way the debate is being framed leaves me uneasy. I get the idea that there are things I don’t know about and some might think I shouldn’t comment on. But  I'm an innocent abroad in all this, a survivor, just about, from the Cretaceous Age and old enough to care nothing for branding, to say what I think and not give a damn. As it says on the side of this page, "If you see anything in these pages you consider inaccurate or unfair please bring it to my attention" (Only Nigel Doar, God bless him, and various crazed MTBers have contacted me to complain so I must be getting something right.)

Anyway the SHU conference package introduced me to the elements of corporate  identity and branding in this branch of higher education. All is business-like and spiffingly marketed. There's a website, a blog, a publishing outfit etc. As it says on their handout,

"UKEconet is the international portal of the Biodiversity and History Research Institute (BALHRI) working in conjunction with Sheffield Hallam University and the South Yorkshire Biodiversity Research Group (SYBRG). It provides research-based information on ecology, history, archaeology and landscape change ...... etc."

Doesn't leave out much. I wonder what they would charge to repair my boots?

You then need to add in that 'Conferences, seminars and symposia' are what they do alongside 'Community projects and surveys'  and even 'Research, Teaching and Popular Articles', assuming they’ve any time left for that. But I do get the feeling that there’s a more of a leaning towards business and ‘consultancy’ rather than scholarship for its own sake. There, that’s a value judgement for a start.

They even do a Loyalty Card ('Privilege Card') and those attending, as long as they keep their card with its unique number can get discounts on future events and publications. Impressed isn't the word. What have I been doing that I've missed this all these years? And this is just one department. Truly SHU must be a business model based on Tesco's. Anyone who wondered if a supermarket could match the specialist retailer of, say, photographic equipment, might have questions. Like how do they do 'cutting edge'? Innovative wasn't a word I came across but it's surely in there somewhere**.

Still one must be aware of the modern trend to cut costs, pile the products high and shift the stock.

As for content, we would hope that might be a priority. But with all the branding and presentational clutter, not to mention coloured capital letters on Power Point, is that more likely?  
One source has described what was in the pack as ‘Rotherham's propaganda blitz'. I must try to be more measured than that. 

I'll look elsewhere for a boot repair facility. But I may just have found my corporate identity.

** it surely is. It's in Hallam's branding guidelines:

"We are successful, innovative, inventive and creative.
We have a very real commitment to partnership,
collaboration and connectedness and this needs to
come across strongly when we communicate."

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