Universities pride themselves on being able to confront uncomfortable truths. But at Birmingham, senior managers' hearts must have sunk after an internal report concluded that the university was perceived as "dull and conservative".
Joining the scramble to find its niche in the market of top-up fees, the 104-year-old university has hired brand consultants Wolff Olins to transform its image.
Birmingham will from next Easter present itself as the university with attitude, following a rebranding exercise reportedly costing more than Pounds 100,000. According to the consultants, the word that encapsulates the new-look Birmingham is "provoke".
Nigel Markwick, senior consultant with Wolff Olins, said: "What differentiates this university is not being slightly better at maths or English. It's about the attitude of the university. These are people who approach life in a particular way."
Pressure on the university to be more businesslike and attract research funding from non-governmental sources has contributed to the reappraisal of its image.
Warwick University and Imperial College London have also spent significant sums on rebranding.
The university's professor of brand marketing, Leslie de Chateratony, said:
"The university is aware that it needs to sharpen its position and personality."
He told The Times Higher : "It's not cheap and will cost many thousands of pounds. But it will make us a more efficient institution in the way we market ourselves to attract students and commerce."
Wolff Olins has a fine pedigree for helping organisations with their branding. The company boasts that it gave Channel 5 its "name, look and attitude" and "helped the Samaritans come out of the shadows".