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Networking of corporate universities in knowledge management: evidence from China

Yunqi Chen (Faculty of Business Administration, Shanxi University of Finance and Economics, Taiyuan, China)
Yusen Xu (Faculty of Management and Economics, Foshan University, Foshan, China)
Qingguo Zhai (School of Business, Federation University Australia, Ballarat, Australia)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 24 March 2022

Issue publication date: 10 November 2022




A corporate university is a knowledge management institution established within an enterprise. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the evolution of knowledge activities of corporate university and their relationship, particularly the role of networking in the knowledge management.


Haier, which had the earliest Chinese corporate university in the science and technology manufacturing industry, was employed as a case study. Data were collected by interviews and through consulting the documents of Haier’s corporate university. Grounded theory was used for data analysis.


The paper finds that corporate universities are engaged in three kinds of activities, namely, enterprise operational knowledge transfer, networking activities and scientific and technological activities. There is a dynamic circular relationship among these three kinds of activities, which form a “figure of eight” cycle model. Networking activities are the hub between enterprise operational knowledge transfer and scientific and technological activities. There is a two-way integration of enterprise operational knowledge transfer and science and technological activities via networking activities. Networking activities, thus, play a key role in the development of corporate universities into knowledge management centers. The scope of the key activities of corporate universities is dynamic and expanding. The double circulation effect among key activities in corporate universities has strengthened over time.


By investigating the dynamic nature of the activities of corporate universities, particularly the role of networking in knowledge management, this research enriches the study of the knowledge management of corporate universities.



The authors wish to thank Prof Russell Smyth of Monash University for his valuable input in the revision of this research work. The authors also want to thank the three anonymous referees, and the editors for their excellent comments which have greatly improved the paper.

Financing: The study was funded by the Postgraduate Education and Teaching Reform Project Fund of Shanxi Province in China [2021YJJG179].

Conflict of interests: This paper is original unpublished work, and it has not been submitted to any other journal for reviews. The authors declare no conflict of interest.


Chen, Y., Xu, Y. and Zhai, Q. (2022), "Networking of corporate universities in knowledge management: evidence from China", Management Decision, Vol. 60 No. 11, pp. 3147-3164.



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