Corporate Design as governance instrument in higher education: A thematic analysis of corporate design rationales in German universities

Klarissa Lueg, Angela Graf

Publikation: Konferencebidrag uden forlag/tidsskriftPaperForskningpeer review


The meaning of what communication is, in the European Higher Education landscape, has certainly changed within the last decades: strategic organizational communication in form of com-petitive managerialism has taken over many universities (Diefenbach, 2009). German universities provide an interesting context to explore this issue: on the one hand, German universities, with their legal chairholder autonomy, have introduced managerialism at a comparatively slow pace. On the other hand, this autonomy might be deceptive, making way for compliance towards numerous soft governance policies. One of these policies pertains to Corporate Design (CD): universities dis-seminate guidelines as to the use of symbolism and all forms of planned communication. We won-der about the rationale behind introducing CD. We want to explore “who and what really counts” (Mitchell et al., 1997) from a governmental view. Consequently, we ask: What are the rationales behind introducing Corporate Design in the university sector?
We undertake a cumulative case study of CD at German universities. We take a virtual ethnographic approach (Figaredo et al., 2007). We analyze the CD policies and their prefaces of 36 universities employing qualitative content analysis.
We find that CD is being used as a strategic tool for integrated communication with exter-nal stakeholders. CD, via its routinized use, is to align the „social identity“ of faculty with „corporate identity“ (Cornelissen et al., 2007). Organizational (faculty) identity is clearly subordinated to the corporate identity. Faculty is subjected to this process and coerced into compliance. Consequently, they are being marginalized as stakeholders (Hatch and Schultz, 2008).
StatusUdgivet - 2019
BegivenhedThe Dark Side of Communication: 2nd International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Discourse and Communication in Professional Contexts - Aalborg University, Aalborg, Danmark
Varighed: 14. aug. 201916. aug. 2019


KonferenceThe Dark Side of Communication
LokationAalborg University