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Clare fears loss of identity in Galway university rebrand

The President of University of Galway moved to allay fears its recent rebrand would negatively impact Shannon College of Hotel Management, after criticism in Clare that it caused confusion among international students.

Clare County Council wrote to University of Galway urging them to have a rethink about rebranding the Shannon college under the new University of Galway logo due to potential reputational damage.

The letter was sent by Ann Reynolds senior executive officer in Corporate Services in Clare County Council to Caroline Loughnane, Secretary for Governance and Academic Affairs at the university, after Clare County Councillors passed a resolution condemning the rebranding from NUI Galway to University of Galway.

Elected representatives claimed there was “immense disquiet” in the hospitality industry about the rebranding – so much so the hotels industry representative group also wrote to University of Galway about the rebranding which cost an estimated €500,000.

The Clare representatives said Shannon College of Hotel Management existed for over 70 years and had developed a reputation internationally.

They claimed that management in Shannon were told they had to “relinquish their logo of many years”, replacing it with University of Galway logos.

“As a direct result of this change, much confusion will be caused in the international market for students,” councillors claimed.

“Already there is evidence that international students seeking to study at Shannon are under the illusion that the hotel school is now situated in Galway,” they added.

Councillor Clare Colleran Molloy claimed that management in Shannon had “made strenuous efforts to try to retain its current branding” but this call “met with negative response from the marketing department at University of Galway”.

They appealed to Ms Loughnane to raise the issue at Governing Body level within the university.

“It is imperative that an accommodation be reached to allow Shannon College of Hotel Management to retain its identity in the international student market,” it said.

The letter claimed there was “immense disquiet in hospitality circles” about the rebranding. “The majority of hospitality professionals feel that we are about to lose a vital piece of our international reputation and identity,” it added.

A separate letter from Irish Hotels Federation, echoing the concerns of Clare County Council, was discussed at the Governing Body meeting of University of Galway last February.

The then Students Union President Sai Gujulla said he welcomed the rebranding as it “reinforced the College’s place as part of the University”.

President of University of Galway, Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh insisted a “sub-brand” for Shannon was “not possible” but he said the name would be retained as “University of Galway Shannon College of Hotel Management”.

He replied to the County Councillors in Clare to “clarify” the position, insisting that altering how Shannon College of Hotel Management was known was “never considered”.

Prof Ó hÓgartaigh said it had Shannon’s name “committed to statute”.  He said he recognised the concerns of those with a “deep professional and emotional attachment” to the Shannon College and therefore had “committed to ensuring the continued use of the original Shannon ‘wings’ logo . . . in specific circumstances”.

“We are proud of Shannon College as part of University of Galway and in keeping with our approach to all integral parts of the University, we are convinced that the best way to ensure the continued success of the College is to brand it very clearly as part of the University, while keeping its distinctive name and avoiding any confusion over the College’s affiliations that might arise through the use of multiple logos in marketing and recruitment,” he said in reply to Clare councillors.

“It is in that spirit of respecting the College’s history and heritage while building on the successful integration into the University that we will move forward together.”

Prof Ó hÓgartaigh said this year student applications to the Shannon college had increased, and he insisted there would be “no diminution in the promotion of Shannon College of Hotel Management”.

Both letters, and minutes of the Governing body meeting, were released to the Connacht Tribune following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

Pictured: Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh…’committed to statute’.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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