University Relationships

Experts:

Soo May Cheng

Dos:

Invest in Relationships

A total commitment to bilateral partnership would mean that engagement should occur at all levels of both organizations, from CEO down through to lower ranks.   Endorsement by top executives should signal a willingness to establish links at departmental levels, including student and alumni groups. Consortiums and networks of partners are also popular collaborative structures. The test of commitment is the investment of time, liaison personnel and funds to cultivate these relationships.

Be Mindful of Compliance Aspects

Where universities or their partners are public entities, there are possibly stricter compliance rules that must be observed.  With the cost of doing business and the risks of partnership escalating, private organizations must also be prudent with their investments in collaborative ventures.  Hence it is good practice to observe accountability, transparency and due process in all transactions.

Cultivate Win-Win Attitudes and Behavior

When partners approach any joint project unselfishly, taking into consideration the others’ interests as well as their own, there is a much better chance of success and achievement of all parties’ objectives. Tangibly, this translates into sharing of information, facilities, personnel, expertise and other organizational assets.

Appoint a Liaison Officer

Appoint a liaison officer on each side to manage the communication that flows between the partners. The role of coordinator is critical in ensuring that information is channeled to appropriate persons, that any query and request is followed through properly, and that all communication emanating from each party will be consistent. This liaison person must be fairly senior so as to command respect and to be able to access all channels within his/her own organization. He/she must have some expertise relevant to the role, and have strong interpersonal skills.

Don’ts:

Do not Overlook Less Well-Known Universities or Companies as Partners

These organizations may not command the same star value as ivy-league universities or Fortune 500 companies, but may be able to demonstrate more flexibility and commitment to a partnership. There may also be better strategic fit between universities and businesses in correspondingly similar “tiers” in their respective sectors.

Do not be Limited in the Scope of Collaboration

As universities evolve to become more managerial and entrepreneurial, while business leaders acquire more scholarly perspectives through further education, the areas of common interest are bound to increase. Extending collaboration beyond one project, say, a company hiring graduates from its partner university, deepens a partnership and makes it more enduring. 

Do not Let a Partnership Terminate with the Departure of Individuals who Have Initially Championed it

Often, collaboration founded on the charismatic or visionary leaders’ initial commitment does not outlive the leaders’ departure from their organizations. With mobility of professors and business executives increasing in more turbulent socioeconomic environments, it is essential that mechanisms be set up to give the partnerships stability and continuity. Institutionalizing collaboration through formal agreements, liaison offices or joint project teams will extend the life of the partnership beyond the influence of their initiators. 

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