So this morning brought wonderful news: The University of Michigan was ranked #12 worldwide in the Times’ [UK] Higher Education World Reputation Rankings. “Only 100 universities are listed in our prestigious World Reputation Rankings….So those that feature in the list are part of an exclusive global elite of exceptionally powerful university brands,” said Times editor Phil Baty.
Wow. Heady stuff.
And it appears we’re on a global roll. Eight days ago we heard that U-M has won the 2012 Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization. This is a biggie in higher ed nationally, and recognizes the breadth and depth of Michigan’s global engagement, with its special emphasis on international opportunities for students.
When I returned to the University this past June, President Coleman and I discussed the changing landscape. We agreed that U-M’s communications strategy needed to support and advance the institution’s global scope (hence the change in my title, in fact). It is exciting work, if a little daunting, because of the sheer volume of international activity and deep connections. Global is as global does.
Of course, a global university brand isn’t solely about international activities, but more broadly about perception of the institution’s overall strength and momentum. The Times editor noted that Michigan’s rise from #13 last year to #12 this year was especially unusual and worthy of note, because many public universities had fallen in the rankings. Too much worry about the impact on quality after sustained reductions in public support.
Quality. That’s really what it’s all about. Just this morning Provost Phil Hanlon and I were talking about U-M’s careful cost-cutting over the past few years, and our efforts to protect academic quality in the midst of major state funding reductions. It hasn’t been easy. But we’ve been able to hire 150 new faculty members during this time—and we did it by reallocating funding to greatest priorities and cutting operational expenses across the enterprise. “Mary Sue and I had dinner with several of our newest faculty recently, and they are spectacular,” Phil told me.
During this same time period we’ve enhanced other measures of quality, too: We have kept our academic programs at the top of pack—we have 95 programs in the top ten; we’ve almost doubled our investment in financial aid; and we’ve added to our campus with gorgeous new facilities such as the new Mott Children’s Hospital, and the law school’s Commons and academic building. Other reasons we’ve been able to make so much progress during tough economic times? Support from generous donors who want to invest in the university’s future, and U-M’s prudent financial management and investment strategies.
Today I am giving myself license to brag that the University of Michigan is rated among the best universities in the world. But it is not about a ranking—it’s about the quality and distinction from which that reputation is built. We are proud of our home state, our public ethos, our diversity, our global reach, our academic quality, our history and traditions. These are the special, defining characteristics that make Michigan Michigan wherever you are: here in Ann Arbor, or in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Escanaba, London, Capetown, Hong Kong, Shanghai or Sao Paulo.
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