Higher education collaboration with industry: Three case studies of instruction based partnerships

Mary Ellen Caro, University of Pennsylvania


Collaboration between business and higher education has provoked debate over the mission of academe for decades. At the core of the argument is the issue of the commercialization of the academy and the associated danger of undue business influence diverting higher education from its greater social purpose. Undergraduate and graduate instruction based partnerships, the focus of this research, while existing in various forms since the advent of vocational education, have emerged in the last few decades to address recruitment, retention and employee skill issues. The purpose of this study was to explore how 3 such partnerships were created and uncover the organizational and operational factors that contributed to their longevity. A comprehensive partnership construct based on partnership typology, lifecycle stages and enabling factors was developed to guide the research. Each partnership had been in operation for more than 5 years and involved a higher educational institution and a major corporation or industry consortium. Case studies were conducted involving in-depth interviews with 27 faculty members, senior academic leaders, and corporate partners. The findings suggest that, while instruction based partnerships vary in their complexity and breath, there are certain commonalities that emerge. In collaborating with a corporation in a global economy, the academic partner must remain flexible and resilient to the changes that may occur in the partnership. Faculty selection for curriculum development and teaching responsibilities in the partnership must be carefully handled to ensure a "fit" with the corporate partner. The emergence of a partnership champion within a supportive organizational environment is essential in the creation and implementation of the partnership. Senior administrative commitment within the academic institution was also fundamental. The case analysis suggests that academic institutions interested in pursuing such partnerships need to recognize and plan for the organizational commitment and resources required. Finally, at the core of these partnerships are people that must develop effective working relationships both within their institution and with the partner organization.

Subject Area

Business community|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Caro, Mary Ellen, "Higher education collaboration with industry: Three case studies of instruction based partnerships" (2007). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3255874.