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Stratification and status competition are prevalent dynamics. This study explores the construction of legitimacy among some of the most prestigious higher education institutions in North America by analyzing the use of quality emblems (e.g., symbols associated with accreditation or rankings) on institutional websites among members of the Association of American Universities (AAU). We apply Lyotard's concept of performativity to guide a visual content analysis process. The visibility of emblematic quality varies primarily according to length of AAU membership. The study contributes to understanding legitimation in the competitive higher education field and the role that websites play in this process.