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Corporate Universities: A Powerful Model for Learning

 -  11/1/02

Corporate universities were first created in the late 1980s as an enhancement to traditional training departments.

Corporate universities were first created in the late 1980s as an enhancement to traditional training departments. This new approach was designed to align the training arm of companies with the organizations' vision and strategy.

Corporate universities can range from a training department looking to brand its offerings to divisions of companies that offer accredited degree programs. Sometimes the focus of a corporate university is on making the outsourcing of training a core competence, while in other cases, the training is developed by a team of learning professionals within the organization. Corporate universities offer a powerful model for learning that compels learners to grow and develop. Most importantly, they can have long-term positive effects on a company's financial health and stability.

There are some important differentiators between the corporate university model and a traditional training department. The primary difference is that corporate universities are designed to align with the strategic initiatives of the corporation, while training departments tend to be more centered on offering open-enrollment classes that are in high demand. Some other differences are illustrated in Table 1.

Examining the differences between corporate universities and traditional training departments can illuminate many of the weaknesses that have often existed in a company's learning model. Becoming a corporate university can strengthen the focus on learning and challenge corporate executives to think about how learning can affect their organizations.

Advantages of Using a Corporate University Model

  • Provides a powerful model for people to embrace.
    Most of us grew up in a group setting in school and found ourselves inspired to commit to a lifetime of learning. Those of us who went to a university likely deepened our commitment to learning as we challenged conventional ways of thinking. The corporate university name compels people to renew that commitment to learning and engage in their individual development in a meaningful way.
  • Offers a unique branding opportunity.
    Perhaps some of the most powerful advantages are derived from the marketing possibilities that a corporate university offers. There are opportunities to develop a university name, a logo, print publications, Web sites, degree or certification programs, faculty and guest faculty designations and communication vehicles. Branding can extend beyond the employees of the training team to include strategic partners, members of the value chain, outsourced training companies and local college and university programs.


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