Media Representations of Academia: Mapping and Typologizing News Coverage of All Swiss Higher Education Institutions

Silke Fürst, Daniel Vogler, Mike S. Schäfer, Isabel Sörensen


Higher education institutions (HEIs) are pivotal organizations in knowledge societies. A growing need for societal legitimation has led many HEIs to expand their media efforts—as news media are important sources through which both the broader public and stakeholders inform themselves about HEIs. Despite this importance of the news media–HEI nexus, few studies have analyzed it, and the scholarship has considerable gaps. Most studies focus on few news outlets, specific media types, or coverage of a few research universities. Therefore, this study provides a comprehensive picture of coverage of all Swiss HEIs across diverse media. Using data from quantitative content analysis of news articles (N = 5,732), official statistics, and HEI websites, we conducted a hierarchical cluster analysis to map coverage. We identified 6 types of HEIs that differ from official distinctions of HEIs, are portrayed differently in news media, and exhibit different structural characteristics. Only 2 types receive a high amount of coverage, showing that few large and strongly resourced universities have great advantages in the competition for visibility.


media coverage, journalism, higher education, scientific organizations, public relations, mediatization of science, typology of media representations, quantitative content analysis

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