Innovative Corporate/University Alliances

» Posted by Jeanne Meister  » Posted on 12.03.07

Published November 2003

How does a chief learning officer, pursued by a number of universities, select the optimal network? Traditionally, corporations relied on networks provided by their CEOs and senior business leaders. So in many cases corporations partner with universities where the CEO and/or senior leaders are alumni or serve as trustees. But now, as customers of education, corporations are basing their selection on the universities’ ability to meet relevant criteria. Factors evaluated include:

  • Brand: the reputation and national ranking of a university’s programs.
  • Customization: the willingness of a university to customize courses and even tap corporate managers as faculty.
  • Cost: the cost-per-student and flexibility to offer tuition discounts to corporate cohort groups and family members of employees.
  • Flexibility: the willingness of faculty to learn the industry and business challenges.
  • Technology: the university’s record in offering a curriculum tailored to attract a distributed workforce.
  • Metrics: the use of a jointly developed methodology to conduct “success case evaluations” at the Level 3 and 4 assessments.
  • Learner Support: flexibility in offering online learner support services.
  • Programs: appropriateness of programs.

For universities, this represents a major sea change in how they work with corporations. But given a corporation’s increasing commitment to link learning to corporate strategy, the quality of content delivered via e-learning and the captive audience, universities are beginning to see the enormous potential of crafting innovative alliances with corporations.

These alliances are taking on a variety of forms, from college accreditation of corporate training programs to jointly developed customized electives for degrees to actually creating a new degree program. Here are some examples.

Under the leadership of Chief Learning Officer Bill Kline, Delta University has developed a partnership strategy with the American Council on Education (ACE) that requires all academic partners to accept ACE credit recommendations for Delta University corporate training courses. This means that Delta University can leverage its course development and offer employees a portable credential of university accreditation. Some of the universities that have agreed include the University of Utah, Georgia State University and Northern Kentucky University.

John Deere partnered with Indiana University Kelly School of Management to create customized electives for an MBA program with a specialty in finance. The program was designed to develop a critical mass of finance leaders at John Deere with a combination of financial technical skills and business acumen. The customized MBA created to fill this need was a blended offering mixing on-site and online delivery.

ST Microelectronics University (STU), the corporate university of ST Microelectronics, identified a need to create an entirely new master’s degree in Microelectronics Technology and Manufacturing Management for ST Microelectronics’ employees as well as customers, suppliers and engineering students. The result was a partnership among STU and French technical universities Ecole Nationale Superieure de Physique de Marseille (ENSPM) and Ecole Superieure d’Ingenieurs de Marseille (ESIM). These universities assisted STU in creating the new degree program targeting ST engineers, as well as engineers from ST suppliers and unaffiliated students.

The range of these new corporate/university partnerships is only the beginning as universities and corporations realize that the large corporate job families represent a captive market for delivering learning aligned to business needs.

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