Corporate universities set to muscle in on the old school

August 23, 2002

Corporate universities such as Motorola U and the BT Academy could soon compete with traditional public-sector universities for students wanting a vocational education, two Open University Business School researchers predict.

This is one of three scenarios - competition, co-existence and collaboration - that Rob Paton and Scott Taylor describe in a report for the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education on multinational corporate universities.

The second scenario sees corporate universities as hybrids providing workers with training and personal development running in tandem with traditional universities.

The third has corporate universities collaborating with a select band of existing institutions.

The number of corporate universities in the US rose from 15 in the 1980s to 400 in the mid-1990s. In Europe they are rarer, but many companies are exploring the idea.

The researchers say that when UK higher education participation rates approach 50 per cent, the value of credentials from some public universities "may be less than the students... would wish".

"A degree from a prestigious university will retain its social value and cultural capital... but qualifications gained through a corporate university, and obtained while gaining... industrial experience, may well acquire a currency that outperforms credentials from less prestigious universities."

Corporate Universities: Historical Development, Conceptual Analyses and Relations with Public-Sector Higher Education is available from

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