American universities typically generate $5 million (Pounds 3.1 million) a year from developing and delivering programmes for corporate universities, a survey has found.
Private-sector institutions made the most cash, an average of $6 million in 1998, with those offering four-year degree courses profiting more than community colleges.
The survey was conducted by Brenda Velez for New York-based consulting firm Corporate University Xchange. The findings are based on more than 100 responses from corporate universities and deans of continuing education departments at traditional colleges and universities.
Universities and colleges with a strong brand identity for their corporate education programmes were likely to fare best in the future, the survey found.
"We asked participants to indicate whether they had created a brand identity and found that only a small proportion are doing so.
"However, corporate universities said they would look to form links with traditional universities that have a brand identity or niche," said Ms Velez.
A third of the 50 higher education institutions that responded to the survey had established a brand name or slogan for their corporate education programmes. Community colleges led the way, with 60 per cent of them having a brand name.
Robin Middlehurst of the University of Surrey, whose report The Business of Borderless Education was published this week, said: "The idea that you need to get a brand identity is fair comment, whether it's the whole university or just a part. For example, the Warwick Manufacturing Group has a very strong identity, and this has helped form the brand identity of the University of Warwick."
Half of all the deans of continuing education had someone in their organisation who was responsible for establishing and managing relationships with corporate universities, the survey found.
Some 60 per cent had set up marketing departments to forge links with business. Three-quarters of corporate universities employed someone responsible for establishing links with traditional universities and colleges.
The survey looked at the ways in which universities can generate income, from designing and delivering customised courses to corporate institutions to teaching standard university courses.
Sixty per cent of corporate universities subcontract the design of their training programmes to specialist providers, including traditional universities. This figure increased towards the top end of the market, where all the professional-service firms surveyed subcontracted the programme design.
Overall, 90 per cent of corporate universities asked traditional institutions to teach the courses. The average institution had 1,900 corporate students enrolled on education programmes in 1998, with 15 per cent reporting more than 5,000 students enrolled.
"Institutions of higher education are providing corporations with a wide range of training programmes for their employees, ranging from traditional business courses to interpersonal development programmes," the survey stated.
"Among those surveyed, the top programmes offered in corporate education curriculums included e-commerce, leadership development, management/supervisory, information technology, executive development and English as a second language."
In the United Kingdom, however, universities are failing to fully tap the market for continuing professional development (CPD) courses.
"The CPD market is large (estimated at Pounds 600 million in 1998) and universities are only getting a proportion of it," said Professor Middlehurst.
In 1996, 31 per cent of employers used British universities to provide CPD courses.