in progress edited by Daniel
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
In 1961, the McDonald's Corporation founded Hamburger University, marking the starting point for the corporate university. The first courses were held in the basement of a McDonald's restaurant in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. Hamburger University was designed exclusively to instruct personnel employed by McDonald's Corporation or by McDonald's Independent Franchisees in the various aspects of the business and operations of McDonald's. During the following four decades, more than 65,000 managers in McDonald's restaurants graduated from Hamburger University, which eventually moved to a 130,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility on the McDonald's Home Office Campus in Oak Brook, Illinois. There, a faculty of 30 resident professors can teach and communicate simultaneously in 22 languages with the help of translators and technology. By the end of the twentieth century, Hamburger University had branches in England, Japan, Germany and Australia.
While many other corporate universities were created during the sixties, seventies and eighties, it hasn't been until the nineties that they have become popular in the business community. From 1988 to 1998, their number quadrupled, increasing from 400 to 1,600. (Greenberg, R., 1998). The corporate university is most easily defined as an "educational division that functions as the strategic umbrella for a company's total educational requirements for all its employees" (Meister, 1998). This is a significant change from the traditional training department that has typically been responsible for employee development. This shift is in response to economic factors, which have forced companies to re-evaluate their human resources in an effort to achieve strategic goals. The popularity of the corporate university raises questions for adult education as it readjusts and finds its role in this new landscape.
To understand the appeal of corporate universities, it is helpful to understand the economic factors behind its creation. Computers have affected all aspects of business life and companies struggle to stay abreast of the constant and rapid changes that technology brings. Business is conducted in a global economy, which has led to increased competition. Companies have to contend with their neighbours across the street, as well as in other countries, many of which offer similar products with comparable benefits. In order to be successful, companies need to differentiate themselves from their competition and what sets them apart, are their employees. More and more businesses are looking to their human resources when developing their business strategies. This is in recognition that the contributions of employee knowledge and expertise, ideas and leadership are what make a company successful. They recognize the need to foster and encourage their individual employees and are therefore looking to corporate universities to fulfill these needs.
Traditionally, companies have turned to their training departments and to academic settings to find staff for their growing practices. Now many companies are creating their own educational arms that are more extensive than training departments and more focused than traditional universities. This suggests a gap in the talent pool that neither is able to satisfy. So how exactly do these corporate universities differ from traditional training departments so that they are able to meet the current strategic training demands? The creators and advocates of the corporate university cite several differences between it and a traditional training department.
|Traditional Training Department||Corporate University|
|Wide Audience||Customized, strategic focus for specific audiences|
|Functional information with little depth||Relevant information linked to business strategy|
|Tactical scope||Strategic scope|
|Classroom environment||Variety of formats - virtual classroom, computer-based, web-based, distance learning…|
|Does not address company culture||Shapes corporate culture|
|Structured format – clear start and finish||Lifelong learning approach|
|Skills based||Develops intangible skills like leadership, creative thinking, problem solving|
|Little or no "Buy-in"||Management and employee support|
|Increase in job skills outcome||Increased performance on the job|
|Operates as a staff function operation||Operates as a business unit|
|Image of "Go get trained"||Image of "University as a metaphor for learning"|
Greenberg, R. (1998). Corporate U. takes the job training field. Techniques, 73, 7, 36-39.
Landau, M. D. (2000). Corporate universities crack open their doors. The Journal of Business Strategy, l21, 3, 18-23.
Meister, J. (1998). Extending the short shelf life of knowledge. Training and Development, 52, 6, 52.
Sunoo, B.P. (1998). Corporate universities – more and better. Workforce, 77, 5, 16-17.
Prepared by Hannah Sauer and DS (OISE/UT) 2000
DS Home Page Back to Index Suggest or Submit a Moment
© 1996-2002 Daniel Schugurensky. All Rights Reserved.
Design and maintenance by LMS.
Last updated on May 26, 2002.
Number of visits to the 1960s