Purpose – As the boundaries between training and education have converged, the demand for the services of universities and the response of the traditional public have drifted apart, leaving a gap which has been filled by the development of the corporate university. Now the UK Government is proposing relaxing the regulations on university status which will allow corporate universities to gain degree-awarding powers. Design/methodology/approach – This paper charts the rise of the corporate university through turbulent times, looking at the external factors that have contributed to its development, and the internal benefits that have fuelled its success, drawing on a number of case studies. It also raises questions as to where it is going next. Findings – The discussion focuses on the extrapolation of the current situation into the future, highlighting that corporate universities could pose an even greater threat to traditional public universities in the future as they may be better placed to provide a meaningful undergraduate experience to school-leavers than is currently provided in the education sector. Originality/value – The paper suggests a future for undergraduate education that has not yet been widely contemplated or even considered by parties in the education sector, and therefore it opens the arena for debate by raising awareness of the issues that are driving such a future outcome forward.