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Selling Students: The Rise of Corporate Partnership Programs in University Career Centers

The University Under Pressure

ISBN: 978-1-78560-831-5, eISBN: 978-1-78560-830-8

Publication date: 5 February 2016


This study documents a new case of the further commercialization of the university, the rapid adoption of corporate partnership programs (CPPs) within centralized university career services departments. CPPs function as a type of headhunting agency. For an annual fee they facilitate a corporate hiring department’s direct access to student talent, allowing the company to outsource much of its hiring tasks to the university career center. CPPs are a feature found predominantly, though not exclusively, on campuses where there is a highly rationalized logic around the economic benefits of academic science. Further, CPPs represent a commercialization of practice that is in tension with the student-development mission of traditional career counselors. Using an inhabited institutionalist approach, we show how the models differ and how staff on each side attempt to negotiate their competing roles in the multiversity environment. We also discuss some of the potential impact on students, on the career services profession, and on college-to-work pathways.




We are grateful to the Kauffman Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the University of California, San Diego for their generous support of this project. We would also like to thank John Skrentny and the participants of the UCSD Department of Sociology Practicum II class.


Davis, D. and Binder, A. (2016), "Selling Students: The Rise of Corporate Partnership Programs in University Career Centers", The University Under Pressure (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 46), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 395-422.



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