How has the Communication Model Changed in Universities

July 20, 2023

For an institution to succeed, it needs to adapt to its environment. Today changes occur rapidly at all levels, including communication. In the case of universities, one might think that they are exempt from this concern as they have the most expert professionals in the field (understanding these institutions as a source of knowledge). However, even if a professional knows all the possible forms of communication, they must continuously search for new ways of interacting with their stakeholders while studying them and adapting to them quickly. Nowadays, new forms of communication are constantly emerging among the stakeholders of the same organization, so the sooner they are involved and updated the better it would be.

With the advancement of technologies and the increase in the demands of stakeholders, universities have had to adapt and change their communication models. From practically their origins and given that in many cases they were entities dependent on the Public Administration, their form of communication responded to a traditional opacity and the emission of scarce and unidirectional messages. As the Administrations came to understand the importance of being in contact with their environment, they adopted a more interactive type of communication. Thus, gradually, communication in administrative entities came to be understood as a public service focused on allowing citizens to know their duties, obligations, and opportunities. In addition, transparency came to play a fundamental role due to the need to be accountable to society.  But what was the main reason for institutions to join this new communication model? In addition to trying to increase citizen participation and involvement, the aim was to project a public image based on the trust of their external and internal audiences that would enable them to gain support for their actions.

The fact that in many cases universities were linked to a strong concept of “tradition” in certain cultures, slowed down the explicit development of communicative and informative processes in these institutions. However, although at first, the authorities were reluctant to make profound changes, (precisely because the traditional forms had worked up to that time), the criteria and “know-how” of the new communicative model gradually gained weight. Thus, one of the first steps taken by the universities was the creation of a press office as a defense against possible actions by the media and as a projection of the image of the institution’s leader. Later, internal communication actions were also adopted and relations with the socioeconomic environment were increased through marketing and advertising actions to face an increasingly competitive environment. Finally, university communication departments achieved widespread recognition of the strategic role played by communication in these institutions. Thus, all the communication actions and structures that had been scattered to date were logically brought together to conceive communication as a strategic element rather than a simple instrument.

Communication management in universities

Communication management in universities, after this process of evolution, is understood as a strategic axis that involves dealing with internal audiences (members of the university community such as students, teaching and research staff, administration and services staff) and external audiences (other public administrators, former and future students, competitors, educational, economic and cultural environment, etc.) and issuing all the necessary information to develop better relations with the environment through a coherent plan of actions. The objectives of this new approach are to care for the brand image, involve people in the development of the institution, promote the circulation of knowledge and ensure corporate reputation. 

In conclusion, universities must adapt to a situation of growing competition, and to this end, they should probably adopt a model in which “social strategies” are more important, in which a circular and conversational (rather than unidirectional) communication system is promoted. The groups involved (internal and external) must be interconnected through the communication actions carried out by the universities. Institutions no longer address a traditional passive receiver who “only” interprets, but a user capable of creating and disseminating his messages and even his content in any format and channel (oral, visual, written, audiovisual, multimedia…).  This characteristic of the new communication model is combined with the possibility of the prosumer (this is the name given to users who produce and consume messages) to access almost any content whenever, wherever, and through whatever medium they prefer. In this way, universities lose total control of the information circulating about themselves and, therefore, of their corporate image.

New technologies have led to a significant percentage of conversations about an organization’s products or services taking place outside corporate channels and on other blogs, forums, or social networks. Therefore, it has become essential to monitor these media outside the control of universities to obtain valuable information and to identify both possible market trends and the opinions of citizens about a particular organization. 

In short, a university can have the best educational offerings in the sector, a high employability rate among students, offer exceptional services, have a modern infrastructure, and even have an excellent teaching staff, but if this message does not reach the target audience, all efforts will have been in vain.

AGUILERA MOYANO, M.; FARIAS BATLLE, P. y BARAY-VAR FERNÁNDEZ, A. (2010) La comunicación universitaria: modelos, tendencias y herramientas para una nueva relación con sus públicos Revista Icono14 [en línea] 1 de Julio de 2010, Año 8, Vol. 2. pp. 90-124. Recuperado (20/07/2023), de

At Lucentum Universitas we can help your institution to implement a communication strategy plan in your educational institution, or to evaluate and improve the plan you are currently developing. If you are interested, you can send us an email to and we will contact you to evaluate your case and propose improvement actions.

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