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University of Derby 

Fighting fit for the future 

The context

The University of Derby is one of the UK’s leading post ’92 Higher Education Institutions, and a regular in the Top 20 rankings in University League Tables.  


In 2017, with a new Vice-Chancellor in post, a number of shifting priorities and several significant opportunities on the horizon, the University was experiencing a pronounced identity crisis.


They were competing against established providers regionally and nationally who were investing heavily in a bid to attract students, staff, funding and partners.  As well as a facing a wide range of new and emerging threats; it was clear the University needed a reinvigorated definition of its role, relevance and distinctiveness.  One that could inspire a shared understanding internally, galvanising change.   As well as translate into an ambitious, confident positioning externally, accelerating growth. 

The approach

Depth interviews with Vice Chancellor and Senior Team - Quantitative research with customers and partners > Qualitative research > Co-creation workshops > Strategic review of major product / service areas > Recommendations on proposition and strategic framework > Development of university wide brand architecture and identity system*


*in collaboration with Edit brand studio


The strategic shift


From campus community, to civic university.

It was clear that to build on areas of strength, accelerate future growth in both student numbers and income, as well as capitalise on emerging opportunities, the University needed to effect a shift in the way it thought of and defined itself.  


From....a thriving campus community, successfully teaching and training primarily on site, in region.   


To....a collaborative, connected civic university.  A provider of modern, mobile education and training opportunities for all, increasingly online as well as on-site.  Partnering locally and regionally, whilst operating nationally and internationally to develop the citizens and businesses of tomorrow.  Contributing socially and economically to not only benefit the D2N2 region, but the UK and society at large.


It’s not about 'brand', it’s about reputation 

Reputation is of fundamental strategic and economic value in Higher Education; driving income, influence and impact.  The University of Derby needed a reinvigorated definition of its role, relevance and distinctiveness that could raise its profile and strengthen reputation. 

A shared definition to underpin all we do, not just what we say

















An applied University of today and for tomorrow 

The new definition of role, relevance and distinctiveness must be built upon the strengths of yesterday and today, but focused on enabling future opportunities, reflective of internal ambition and social, political, cultural, as well as sectoral change.  

"I have worked a number of times with Claire since starting at the University, from our recent high profile rebrand through to smaller product reviews. On every occasion, the consultancy provided was first class, quickly cutting through complex legacy offerings to provide clarity through research, stakeholder interviews, customer and sector knowledge"


Melissa Nurcombe

Director of Marketing Recruitment

University of Derby ​

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‘One Derby’ in definition and identity 


To raise profile and strengthen reputation for the University as a whole, it was clear a monolithic, master brand approach was required. To ensure all major activities both academic and otherwise were attributed back to the institution. Consequently a university-wide brand architecture and identity system was developed, helping drive reputation externally and reinforce the ‘One Derby’ message internally.  


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