Depending on their needs, their perception of the university’s capacity to deliver and on-going relationships, private companies may offer research grants to academic staff working on issues of interest to the companies.
The number of consultancy assignments offered to businesses is an indication of the relevance of the university’s research to local businesses and a measure of knowledge flows to the local economy.
While access to the university’s infrastructure and facilities should not necessarily be limited to local businesses, the level of participation from local companies may be an indicator of how much the local business community is engaged with the university’s activities.
Business executives and practitioners bring valuable insights into the operations and management of the universities. Many universities now have them in their advisory councils or management boards.
It is already common practice in some disciplines such as accountancy, business administration, and marketing for universities to offer joint programs with private companies or business associations. This is one mechanism of tapping industry experience to inform academic training.
It has been argued that graduates from most universities are not fit for the industry and not ready for the employment market. As a result, the industry spends a lot of resources and time re-training them. Involving the private sector in curriculum design and course accreditation could enhance the employability of university graduates.
Internships and attachments at the undergraduate level is a common requirement in most universities. However, in most cases, companies view this as a one-way relationship where they help the students meet their graduation requirements but gain little knowledge from the students. On the contrary, graduate students (Masters and PhDs) are rarely placed at the companies even when their research focus is relevant to the needs of industry and could help solve some of the problems.