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Which is better – Corporate or Mainstream Universities?

A corporate academy is an educational institution sponsored by a corporation or business. The term “corporate academy” can refer to primary and secondary schools and post-secondary institutions. It may also be a source for educating executive coaches.

Corporate academies typically offer a curriculum similar to that of other schools in the area, although they may place a greater emphasis on business-related subjects. Corporate academies may also offer unique programs or courses not typically available at other schools. For example, a corporate academy sponsored by an accounting firm may offer financial planning and investment courses.

Many corporations are creating their internal universities because they feel business schools have failed at training the managers and leaders needed to run their companies.

“Intellectual growth should commence at

Birth and cease only at death”

                                                                                                            – Albert Einstein

Corporate Academies

The quality of education at a corporate academy can vary depending on the resources and commitment of the sponsoring organization. Some corporate academies are highly regarded for their academic excellence. In contrast, others may be criticized for being more focused on preparing students for the workplace than providing a well-rounded education.

“A corporate university is an educational institution within a corporation. It provides learning and development activities tailored to the corporation’s employees, according to its interests and needs. That includes delivering company-specific management training and leadership development to maintain competitiveness in ever-changing markets. Corporate universities can be online or have physical facilities just like a university campus, corporate universities can partner up with higher education institutions for expanded learning opportunities. Employees can obtain professional certifications at different levels by enrolling in a corporate university” (ELM Learning, 2022) [1].

Corporate universities and academies’ popularity is rising as businesses seek to create a more skilled and knowledgeable workforce. These institutions offer specialized training that can be tailored to the needs of specific industries, and many view them as a viable alternative to traditional colleges and universities.

However, some worry that the growth of corporate academies could ultimately lead to the decline of mainstream universities. As businesses increasingly invest in their training programs, fewer students may enroll in traditional colleges, and universities could be forced to downsize or close their doors.

Only time will tell if corporate academies will significantly impact mainstream universities, but it is clear that they are already changing the landscape of higher education.

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that

Learning into action rapidly is the ultimate advantage”

                                                                                                                        – Jack Welch

The Benefits

Technical skills are in demand these years, but it was recently observed that students who graduated from universities lacked broad social and behavioral skills. So, while the universities had imparted technical knowledge, they had failed in the social aspect.

“Just recently, IBM released some very profound research. Today, after surveying more than 4,500 senior execs in 50 countries, they told us something new. The real problems they now face are not just technical skills but broad social and behavioral skills – things we consider far more complex, soft, and experiential” (Bersin, 2019) [2].

There are many reasons why businesses establish Corporate Academies. The advantages of such an institution are vast and diverse. The primary advantages include the following:

  1. Corporate academies help create an environment where employees feel valued and appreciated. This, in turn, fosters a strong sense of loyalty and commitment to the company, which leads to Improved Employee Engagement and Retention.
  2. If you know that your current employer cares about you and wishes to see you succeed, then you, in turn, also want them to succeed because humans are reciprocal by nature. This reciprocal nature leads to Increased Productivity and Efficiency.
  3. Traditional universities try to prepare their students for the job world by teaching them a little bit of everything, even if most of the knowledge is unused. Corporate academies teach mostly what is required and will be put into practice hence, Improve the Quality of Hires.
  4. Corporate academies Enhance Company Reputation because the opportunities to upskill and reskill impart a strong message to current and future employees that the company culture is uplifting.
  5. You don’t have to rely on a generalized syllabus if you have a corporate academy. You can create Customized Training Programs and shorten the time needed to complete said programs.
  6. Employee morale improves as they see that the company cares about their development. Employees who feel supported in their career goals are more likely to be satisfied with their job and less likely to look for other opportunities.
  7. It has become common knowledge that Increased profits depend, by a large margin, on employee satisfaction and morale. The happier your employees are, the higher the profits.
  8. Corporate academies can also help companies Attract and Retain high-quality talent. Companies can show that they are committed to their employees’ professional growth by offering training and development opportunities.

These advantages result in improved business outcomes for the company, including increased profitability and shareholder value creation. Corporate universities offer a variety of benefits to organizations and their employees.

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest”

                                                                                                                        – Benjamin Franklin

They can help to improve employee productivity and satisfaction and attract and retain top talent. Corporate universities can also provide a way for organizations to share best practices and knowledge across the company.

Additionally, corporate universities can help build a strong sense of identity and pride among employees. Finally, corporate universities can help to create a more efficient and effective workforce by providing employees with the skills and training they need to be successful in their roles.

The Drawbacks

The advantages of corporate academies are quite good, but as with everything in this world, it is not without their drawbacks. These drawbacks do tend to hold back corporate academies from becoming the new norm or even more popular than they already are. The disadvantages include the following:

  1. Building a corporate academy is no easy feat. It boasts extremely High Upfront Costs such as construction, management, staff, supplies, and maintenance, to name a few.
  2. A company is not made of only one type of job, which Limits the Flexibility of the programs offered at the academy.
  3. Time-Consuming Administration refers to managing a university’s worth of employees and students is a tough and challenging task since it would be extremely difficult to manage a schedule of employees with university timings.
  4. Potential for Misalignment with Business Goals
  5. The selling point of a corporate academy is that it offers training that best aligns with the company goals, which is why it’s Difficult to Scale a corporate academy.
  6. A certain portion of company resources needs to be allocated to a corporate academy since it Requires Dedicated Resources, especially in the beginning when funds are needed due to a lack of enrollments.
  7. A corporate academy Can Be Difficult to Evaluate since it operates in a different way than a university and with a different syllabus hence measuring with the usual metrics would be unsuccessful.

Despite these potential disadvantages, many businesses find that the advantages of Corporate Academies far outweigh the disadvantages. Corporate Academies can be a powerful tool for businesses to improve employee engagement, productivity, and profitability when properly designed and managed.

“Many of us think that business education is a worthy goal in its own right, and it certainly has been in the past. But if we’re not able to give our students training that leads to jobs, then it’s possible our model of learning will not survive for very much longer” (Guthrie, 2013) [3].


The concept of the corporate academy has been implemented by industry giants such as Google, McDonald, Apple, Disney, etc.

  • Googleplex

The Googleplex is the closest a corporate university has come close to becoming like a traditional university. This is the campus where Google’s corporate training takes place to groom Google’s upper management.

  • McDonald’s Hamburger University

McDonald’s was the first on the scene for corporate academies. It created a global training center for its employees to develop talent and leadership. This training center was known as Hamburger University and opened its doors in 1961. Hamburger University equips McDonald’s staff with the tools they need to excel at their jobs and teaches them optimization plus efficiency.

  • Apple University

Apple has built its brand on doing things differently and tries to impart the same creativity and knowledge to its employees. They teach employees to think differently. Apple university prepares its students to take on leadership roles, speak up and take risks. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” was the first marketing brochure for the university. Steve Jobs created the Apple university in 2008 to prepare for his succession.

  • Disney University

Disney university is the Disneyland of education. Everything is highly personalized to the Disney brand, and the company’s university introduces the brand when onboarding employees on their very first workday. The university’s main goals are culture, history, values, traditions, and policies.

These campuses are designed to provide employees with an environment conducive to learning and creativity. Each of these corporate academies/universities has its own unique culture and curriculum, but all share the goal of preparing employees for the challenges of the modern workplace.

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow

Belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

                                                                                                            – Malcolm X

“Although the paradigm is nothing new, only in recent years has it been seriously suggested that firms’ in-house training and development offerings could supplant traditional business education. Corporate universities (CUs), some say, are better suited than academia to deliver the targeted, strategy-focused programs today’s executives need” (Kessler, 2017) [4].


There is no doubt that the traditional university model is under pressure. The cost of university education is continuing to rise, while at the same time, the job market is becoming increasingly competitive. This has led many to question whether the traditional university model is still fit for purpose.

One alternative that is gaining traction is the corporate academy. Corporate academies are training programs run by businesses that aim to provide employees with the skills they need to be successful in their careers.

“Corporate universities can be a tremendous force that can help arm employees with a better ability to adapt to a wide range of environments — critical in the increasingly borderless global economy. The next generation of learning directly addresses this by combining the benefits of a capability academy (such as collaboration, learning in the flow of work, assessments, etc.) with relevant examples that directly relate to their day-to-day work” (Lazarus & Kurnoff, 2021) [5].

There are many advantages that corporate academies have over mainstream universities, but corporate academies also have their fair share of problems as well. It is too early to say whether corporate academies will replace traditional universities. However, they are an alternative that is gaining popularity today.


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Coaching 4 Companies – Your premier executive coaching service


We are a young, vibrant, and diverse executive leadership coaching group, with the operation registered in 2019, however, the formation was a 45-year career lifetime in preparation. During that period our founder Wayne Brown observed and worked with leaders of all levels in organizations across industries and cultures globally.

Based on that exposure, our company has intentionally set out to support those practicing the art and science of leadership – or as often referred to, “Executive Talent.” These are people who acknowledge that they are not experts. They are open to opportunities for continued growth and carry the desire for learning what is needed to become a success in today’s complexity and uncertainty.

To this end, we have purposely structured our company and engaged with associates in strategic global locations, so that we are able to provide the full suite of transformational executive leadership coaching, facilitation, and education support required.



[1]: ELM Learning, 28th May 2022, The Corporate University Shift: Why Great Companies Invest in Custom Learning

[2]: Josh Bersin, 5th October 2019, The Capability Academy: Where Corporate Training Is Going

[3]: Doug Guthrie, 22nd January 2013, Corporate Universities: An Emerging Threat to Graduate Business Education

[4]: Benjamin Kessler, 1st February 2017, The Future of the Corporate University

[5]: Lee Lazarus & Janine Kurnoff, 21st September 2021, Storytelling, and Corporate Academies: A Powerful Duo for Workforce Development,


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