10 Corporations That Have a Major Hand in Higher Education

Corporate university contracts are a big deal, and although university students may interact with corporations like Google, book publishers, and food service providers every day, it’s not always easy to make the connection and understand that these everyday encounters are actually a part of corporate university relations. Software, research, cafeterias, even the soft drinks available on campus are all influenced by corporations, and we’ve outlined 10 corporations that do major business with colleges and universities. Read on, and we’ll share 10 corporations that have a major hand in higher education.

  1. Coca-Cola:

    Plenty of college students love to drink soda, and for decades, Coca-Cola has negotiated exclusive contracts as the beverage provider for college campuses, providing Coke in dining halls, vending machines, and at sports events. Coca-Cola even had a Coca-Cola Class NCAA college football game series from 1977 to 1993. Coke has a wide reach on college campuses, but some colleges have decided to boycott or discontinue contracts with the soda maker due to concerns with practices in Colombia and India. Coke’s most notable competitor, PepsiCo is also incredibly popular on college campuses, and the two companies regularly battle it out to become the exclusive soft drink supplier for schools.

  2. Novartis:

    Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company Novartis is one of the largest in the world, ranked No. 2 in pharmaceutical sales worldwide. Much of the company’s research and development is conducted in partnership with colleges and universities, including the University of Pennsylvania and Berkeley, offering the universities contracts in the millions to fund research into pharmaceuticals and enjoy the right to negotiate licenses on discoveries. Additionally, Novartis shares International BioCamp, a program that invites 60 graduate students to perform R&D at the Novartis headquarters in Switzerland.

  3. British Petroleum:

    Like Novartis, BP also performs extensive research in partnership with universities. BP has contracts with Berkeley, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, MIT, and more. The energy company regularly engages in multimillion dollar contracts for university research, including a 10-year, $500 million investment in Berkeley’s Energy Biosciences Institute. Although these major investments are huge by university standards, they’re practically just a drop in the bucket for a Big Oil company like BP, and certainly a great investment as some of the greatest minds in research go to work for new developments in energy.

  4. Chevron:

    BP’s not the only energy company with major university partnerships. Chevron has research alliances with Penn State University UC Davis, and Texas A&M, to name a few. The corporation has even endowed a Chair in Energy Efficiency at UC Davis to direct the university’s Davis Energy Efficiency Center. Beyond these contracts, Chevron connects in smaller ways with many other universities with its University Partnership Program, creating departmental gifts and scholarships like the Summer Bridge Program at Mississippi State University’s Bagley College of Engineering.

  5. Blackboard Inc.:

    With the rise of online education, Blackboard has become a wildly popular solution for educational software and is one of the leaders in the development of Internet-based education software. Blackboard’s reach in education is spread far and wide, with its services used in more than 9,300 institutions in more than 60 countries. Although reception to Blackboard’s services and increasingly large spread is overwhelmingly positive, some in the education and open source industries are concerned about Blackboard’s recent acquisition of companies that provide support to Moodle, Blackboard’s open source competitor. With the acquisitions, Blackboard has now moved into the open source market, offering an “Open Services Support Group” for colleges that use open source learning management systems.

  6. Aramark:

    Aramark is a major service provider for a number of industries, providing professional services including facilities management, uniforms, and as is most common on college campuses, food service. The food service giant is on more than 600 college campuses, including La Salle University, Ole Miss, Johns Hopkins, and USF. Although it seems that hundreds of colleges are happy to use Aramark as a service provider, the company’s higher education contracts have not been without controversy. The president of the University of Central Arkansas lost his job after not disclosing kickbacks in an Aramark contract, and Aramark has been accused numerous times of both price fixing and monopoly. Others just aren’t happy with the food offered, including students that have joined the Real Food Challenge campaign to encourage Aramark to shift to a more sustainable food system.

  7. Sodexo:

    Another university food service giant, Sodexo, seems to make up for the variety and sustainability that Aramark lacks, bring options like vegan dining and green cleaning to the table. This year, 89 of Sodexo-served colleges were named to The Princeton Review‘s list of 322 Green Colleges. Although Sodexo does seem to be a great example of forward-thinking college food service, it is still not without controversy. There have been several boycotts, sit-ins, protests, and strikes of Sodexo at universities for issues including alleged low pay, unfair labor practices, and a lack of local food options.

  8. Google:

    The Big G has not one, but two university presidents sitting as board members, with both Stanford president John L. Hennessy and Princeton president Shirley M. Tilghman serving. College presidents sitting on corporate boards is not unusual, however, and like other college presidents who serve on corporate boards, Tilghman and Hennessy enjoy both the extra pay and networking that come along with being members of the Google team. But presidents are far from the only university ties Google has. The search engine giant has a number of university contracts, including mail service, cloud computing, collaborative tools, search appliances, and even deals to scan books from library collections.

  9. Datatel/SunGard/Ellucian:

    Two of the largest software companies in higher education, SunGard and Datatel, recently came together to create a new corporation, Ellucian. Ellucian provides many colleges with software systems and computer support systems, most often managing student records. All told, Ellucian is at work in more than 2,300 institutions in 40 countries. Ellucian campuses have won awards for digital education achievement with the help of the corporation’s services, but not all of their customers are so happy with the services offered. The corporation has been criticized for its recent lawsuits that prevent colleges from choosing alternative lower cost hosting providers for its services.

  10. Pearson Education:

    Pearson Education is one of the largest higher-education publishers in the world, with 60% of its sales in North America. The corporation boasts a number of publishing imprints college students will recognize, including Addison-Wesley, Adobe Press, Cisco Press, Macromedia Press, Penguin Books, and Prentice Hall. Open just about any college student’s backpack, and you’ll find at least one book from Pearson. But these days, Pearson is going beyond books and moving into educational technology programs, including an eTextbook format, online learning, video training, learning environments integrated with Google Apps for Education, and even extensions to support Blackboard services.