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Becoming "world-class"? Reputation-building in a university merger

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Purpose ‐ This study of a university merger seeks to shed new light on reputation-building, which has remained unexplored in the mergers and acquisitions (M&As) literature. It aims to study how key actors seek to build the reputation of the new university and how issues related to reputation become (re)constructed in different forums and vis-à-vis different stakeholders. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper offers a longitudinal critical discourse analysis of a merger of three universities in Finland. The qualitative empirical material comprises university communications materials and media texts. Findings ‐ The study illustrates dynamics of reputation-building in a university merger. It shows how the need to become an innovative "world-class" university acts as an imaginary incentive, and predictions of an inevitable future are used to legitimize radical actions. The study also highlights the contradictions and controversies involved. Originality/value ‐ The study complements extant M&As literature by offering a unique focus on reputation-building. More broadly, it offers an empirically-based critical analysis of university reform in the global economy. It suggests that the ways in which reputation-building activities impact on the (dis-)identification of academic staff in higher education reforms needs to be studied further.

Keywords: Acquisitions and mergers; Finland; Universities

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: February 1, 2011

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