What's in a name?

This is the first monthly column by RICHARD LISTER of University Campus Suffolk, which will be one of the biggest projects to impact on Ipswich in future.

This is the first monthly column by RICHARD LISTER of University Campus Suffolk, which will be one of the biggest projects to impact on Ipswich in future.

Richard said: “We won't get it right every time, we won't please everyone - but I hope we get most things right and this column will help people watch how we are doing and see us grow into a thriving institution which the town and the county can be proud of.”

Here's his first instalment.

This is the first monthly column that the Star have kindly offered to University Campus Suffolk which will chart the progress from where we are now - right at the start of the process - to admitting our first students next year and beyond to the opening of our new campus in Ipswich in 2008. We won't get it right every time, we won't please everyone - but I hope we get most things right and this column will help Ipswich people watch how we are doing and see us grow into a thriving institution which the town and the county can be proud of.

THE University project took a big step forward this week with the launch of our name and brand identity. It may not sound much, no bricks laid, no students taught, but bear with me - this was an important moment in the development of the new institution. An impressive number of the Suffolk great and good assembled for the launch in the splendid Galleria at Ipswich Town Football Club with its amazing view from half way up the Greene King stand.

As I looked down across the Portman Road ground I could see my own seat down below me and reflected that it was considerably warmer inside the stand than it had been a couple of days earlier for the Leicester game! I think that was the coldest I have ever been at a football match, not helped by a poor first half, though I have bitter memories of a night match against Wimbledon some years back. I think it was 1-1 - no doubt someone out there will correct me!

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But back to the brand and our name. We are settling on University Campus Suffolk - if we could then maybe we would go for University of Suffolk - but it just isn't possible. The Government will not sanction new, separate universities for the foreseeable future. So the name we have chosen is intended to show that the whole county of Suffolk is a campus and as well as the dramatic new education quarter we will be building on the Ipswich waterfront we will have smaller campuses and access points through a Suffolk Learning Network across the whole county.

And the brand itself? Well colours and logos are all part of it of course - and a bit of me shares the cynicism which many people have about all such matters. But think about this - when I look down from the Galleria over Portman Rd - would it look right if the ground was not all blue? If half the seats were red or yellow or green? Or if we called our club Ipswich Rovers or Suffolk Albion? - I am sure there would be outrage! But one day, many years ago someone sat down to think of a name, a colour and a badge - and now we tamper with such things at out peril - because the associations we have with these aspects of our club are very strong and deep rooted. I write this sitting in our new offices in Ipswich, painted a splendid shade of green - and yellow. So what's the first thing visitors say…? “It's all a bit Naaaarich!!” So brand does matter.

It's what persuades us to buy “designer” clothes as opposed to those which presumably haven't been designed at all? Or to pay thousands of pounds more for a VW rather than the same car with a Skoda badge? Or to trust our money to one bank rather than another?

Universities operate in a very competitive market. We are businesses and we can prosper or we can go bust. To succeed we need to attract students to UCS, not just from Ipswich, or Suffolk but across the country and beyond. We need to do this as the new kids on the block, with no track record and when our competitors are raising their game. So our product - the courses and services we offer have to be the best - and our brand and marketing and identity has to be top notch too - and this week is a big start for us.

The other development this week was the launch of our new website.

In only a few years this has become the key tool for selling our courses and services. It is still “work in progress” but we are delighted with the site development and believe it will play a key part in our success. The website address is at the foot of the column - please visit us!

It is likely that the new brand will last a long time. Universities are some of the longest lasting institutions in the world - try Oxford (1201) or Leiden in Holland (1575) or St Andrew's (1413) or Bologna (1088).

Now who knows, maybe one day we will be University of Suffolk, and doubtless one day we will change our logos and colours and so on - but this should be the beginning of a really long story and when some future Suffolk academic comes to write up our illustrious history they may well give some prominence to a gathering at Portman Road on a cold February morning in the long distant days of 2006.

UCS is due to admit its first students next year, and the new campus will open in Ipswich in 2008.

Name: Richard Lister

Age: 50

Family: Wife and two children, Rachel aged 20 and Robert, 18.

Job: Director of operations for University Campus Suffolk

Likes: Ipswich Town Football Club, live music, cooking, eating, good beer, good pubs.

Dislikes: Queuing

Ambition: To see UCS become a thriving and lively higher education institution.

r.lister@ucs.ac.uk, see www.ucs.ac.uk or write to him at St Edmund House

Ipswich, IP4 1LZ.

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