Periodicity.: October - December 2018
e-ISSN......: 2236-269X



Leandro Adolfo Viltard

Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina
Graduate School of Business, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas, Universidad de Palermo, Argentina
Universidad de San Isidro (USI), Argentina
Universidad del Pacífico, Ecuador
Universidad Nacional de La Pampa, Argentina

Universidad Nacional de Luján, Argentina
Universidad Nacional del Comahue, Argentina



Leandro Viltard

Account Manager DCG x86 at Lenovo, Argentina



Submission: 13/04/2018

Revision: 23/04/2018

Accept: 03/05/2018



Corporate University (CU) is proposed as a complement of Taditional Universities (TU) and as an improvement of Traditional Training Departments (TTD). It gives replys to specific matters and –also- to the limited executives' time. That is why corporate training cannot be developed in traditional places or ways anymore. The hypothesis of this investigation –which is corroborated- proposes that the CU is vital in developing the stakeholders’ knowledge and skills and that -through its implementation- it is possible to help in obtaining sustainable competitive advantages. The study objective is referred to analyze the CU and its contribution to knowledge and to business development, and to offer greater foundations for its implementations in Argentina. The main results ot this investigation suggest that CU is feasible for smaller organizations; offers continuous learning assistance; develops skills and knowledge; assures the future organizational sustainability; and -since the CU is focused on the vision, mission and strategy- it contributes to change management and competitive advantage development. This work is exploratory and descriptive, with a qualitative methodology. It is based on literature review of important specialists, complemented with a case analysis of an Argentinean multinational company.

Keywords: Traditional University, Corporate University, Training, Development, Higher education, Education


            The corporate training does not have the shape that we knew. The specificity of what modern organizations require and the limited executive time make that it cannot be developed in the traditional places or ways.

            In this context, it is observed that the Traditional Universities (TU) have other objectives than those that companies require, and Corporate University (CU) appears as a necessary complement to the known ways of training.

            Additionally, the CU is presented as an improvement to the Traditional Training Departments (TTD) and feasible for smaller organizations, offering continuous learning assistance, and skills and knowledge development. It also assures the future organizational sustainability and -since the CU is focused on the vision, mission and strategy- it contributes to change management and competitive advantage development.

            As a result, companies are dealing with a complex business ecosystem, fundamentally characterized by knowledge importance. That is why (ZAMBRANO, 2014) suggests that every employee should have a more active role inside organizations.

            Likewise and in order to face this new competitive landscape, it is verified that the Traditional University (TU) has been unable to fully train people for the work environment. (CHÁVEZ HERNÁNDEZ, 2014) indicates that the TU presents several limitations, such as the inability to adapt to the specific knowledge required by each organization, and the lack of staff integration and of activities with a practical orientation. In this context and mainly due to unsatisfied organizational needs is that Corporate University (CU) emerges.


            (LORENZATTI, 2010) understands CU as a way of working towards knowledge management, allowing alignment to and helping to meet the organizational strategic objectives. Additionally, (CHÁVEZ HERNÁNDEZ, 2014) suggests certain basic CU characteristics, such us:

a)   The adoption of new technologies to teach and learn.

b)   The existence of facilitators -and not teachers- to carry out the educational offer.

c)    The contents and the specific knowledge chosen to train the participants.

            Similarly, LORENZATTI does not restrict the CU adoption only to large companies, but makes it depend on the conviction of the highest executives and business units’ collaboration for skills development.

            In turn, (ZAMBRANO, 2014) highlights the exchange and alliances with other CU as a central element from which the staff becomes highly benefited due to the possibility of transmitting experiences and acquiring new knowledge for both organizations.

            There has been an evident growth in CU implementation in different countries and regions, especially in the United States of America (USA) (ZAMBRANO, 2014). suggests that the first CU implemented -in 1950- corresponded to General Electric. From there, the evolution of the concept was such that by 1993, the total CUs amounted 400 while by 2010 they totaled 3700, exceeding the 2000 USA TUs. As of today, many multinational companies have implemented their own CU worldwide. According to (SORIA DEL RÍO, 2012), it should not be strange that -in the coming years- many more are to be seen, even in small and medium enterprises.

            In accordance with the above, it is understood that there is a need to understand this phenomenon and its implications in the corporate world due to the changes that are occurring in the traditional way of training.

            It is also observed that corporate training has taken an unusual importance. This change is not only due to a new understanding of the knowledge era we are living -where talent is a key element of company wisdom- but also it allows to achieve the established strategic objectives.


            In this way, (ZAMBRANO, 2014) points out that there is a growing complexity in the business world, which generates the need for new multidimensional systems in the education field. As previously stated, the TU is not designed to meet as specific purposes as currently organizations require. In this sense, (LORENZATTI, 2010) states that, for this reason, several companies have a CU implemented, developing skills and knowledge to enhance their employees’ experiences and daily routines.

            The motivations of this work are the same as those in which were based previous studies[1]: a) the importance that intellectual capital management has taken over physical assets; b) the globalization, which has great impact on society and companies; c) the new spaces and moments in which knowledge is transferred; d) the competitive perspective considered in the educational market and e) the knowledge obsolescence and the need for continuous education. It is argued that the CU has a fundamental role in company training and in higher education.

            The present research work is based on CU theoretical studies of important authors and specialists, and -also- in a case study of an Argentinean multinational company, that implemented its own CU. Thanks to this implementation, several goals were achieved, highlighting: a) training centrality and monitoring; b) human resources development for future needs and c) learning methods and new technologies combination in online platforms, in order to help training in every place and moment.

            The following questions allowed guiding the present investigation:

·        Does the TU or the TTD provide the necessary knowledge to its students to face the new global business ecosystem?

·        Are there tools that can provide employees with the needed skills for this new world?

·        How can talent be developed in alignment with organizational strategies?

            The objective of this study is to analyze the CU and its contribution to knowledge and to business development, and to offer greater foundations for its implementation in Argentina.

            The hypothesis of this work says that the CU has a vital importance for knowledge and skills development of the organization’s stakeholders and by its implementation a CU helps to obtain sustainable competitive advantages.

            It is noted that the objective of this study has been verified and the hypothesis was corroborated.

            The methodology applied is qualitative, so it will not be possible to generalize the findings of this study, although it may be used for decision making. It is an exploratory-descriptive and holistic analysis, considering a broad configuration to place the object of this study.

            The analysis unit is the TU, the CU and the case of the CU of the multinational company studied.

            With the analysis of the collected information, it has been tried to deepen in the knowledge of the elements that configure the CU environment.

            It must be said that there are other authors and specialists that could have been included in this study, but the ones that were considered are judged as valid to support this investigation. Also, there are not many CU implemented in Argentina but the case that was analyzed, adequately shows some factors that should be taken into consideration for these kind of implementations.

            Likewise, the theoretical and field works were complemented with the experience of the researchers. In addition, the conclusions of this investigation are based on the supporting material that is presented in this work. Anyway, it is possible to be said that the limitations/clarifications done have not been an impediment to reach reasonable conclusions on this subject.

            This research was performed in Buenos Aires, Argentina and has spanned from Jul., 2017 until March, 2018.


            In this Chapter and as a support of the present research, there are deepened important CU topics, such as: origins, understanding, benefits and implementation; and its differences with the Traditional University (TU). In addition, certain considerations are made regarding to the CU in small companies.

2.1.        CU origin and evolution

            From its origin and up to now, there is a fundamental change in the way corporate education is carried out thanks to the CU incremental presence. (LORENZATTI, 2010) indicates the CU origin -in USA- in the early twentieth century as the initiative of firms like General Motors and General Electric, which verified the need to develop employees’ skills to be able to execute their work routines in a better way. Moreover, (ZAMBRANO, 2014) highlights that in 1993 there were 400 CUs worldwide having afterwards an incredible growth: in 2010 there were 3700 CUs accounted, above the 2000 TUs existing in USA.

            Currently, (SORIA DEL RÍO, 2012) verifies the CU development importance in organizations that have implemented it worldwide, such as Toyota, McDonald's, IBM and General Motors.

            Moreover, (SORIA DEL RÍO, 2012) remarks the birth of the CU as coming from the intersection of the corporate and the educational worlds, trying to raise talent training up to the level of strategy. In this sense, LORENZATTI (2010) insists that the CU must be visualized as part of the company's strategy to achieve its mission.

            Authors like (ZAMBRANO, 2014), attributes -as a fundamental reason for its birth- the growing business world complexity, which generated the need for multidimensional educational schemes. At the same time, suggests that: a) the CU indicates a change in the worker's role, from a passive to an active conception, generating needs in terms of worker’s training in human and business aspects, and on execution capacity, b) there is a need to develop combined skills between soft ones –negotiation and communication, for example- and other hard ones, like statistics and quantitative models. In this sense, (SORIA DEL RÍO, 2012) indicates that the CU objective is related to talent preparation to assume greater responsibilities within the company, as well as to provide tools to face new challenges and changes.

            Finally, the CU importance worldwide is such that it was created Global CCU, a global organization in charge of gathering them together. Its main objective is to connect and facilitate the experience and concept exchange among participants.

2.2.        CU understanding and differences with the TU

            (LORENZATTI, 2010) suggests the CU as a work modality used by many companies to manage continuous knowledge which must be aligned to objectives and strategy. Thus, the author establishes a direct relationship between the learning and the corporate strategy, with processes alignment and achievement of a better organizational performance through the appropriate human resources management.

            Complementing the above, (CHÁVEZ HERNÁNDEZ, 2014) refers to certain characteristics that are distinctive in the CU:

·        Contents, methods and learning strategies: these are distinctive elements, since a relationship is established with the specific characteristics that each company’s function/area demands. Proposes the creation of new objectives and knowledge within a real and practical context.

·        Talent development: Companies that have had a real concern about this aspect have created a CU with the aim of developing employees who have had the intention to pursue a long-term career within the organization. In this way, better qualified and competent resources are generated operation of the firm in the long run.

·        Place of study: depending on needs, face-to-face and virtual sessions are established. The companies have proposed simultaneous programs and trainings all over the world, so that the exchange of experiences and knowledge take place beyond the physical distance existing between the participants.

·        Teaching tool: through learning platforms / systems implementation, technology has greatly facilitated exchange, helping with and recreating the study contents.

·        Learning strategies: refers to the need to provide participants with practical and real tools and knowledge. The most used tools are simulations, problem solving and case studies.

·        Contents: there is a wide variety of topics to be addressed; from company specifics to particular areas, as well as employees’ development aspects.

·        Participation and participants: it is indicated that training programs participation can be voluntary or obligatory, and that can attend the totality of employees and even participants of other companies to which they can market the courses.

·        Facilitators: There can be internal company facilitators (who can be area heads or leaders) and external ones (professionals and specialists) who will guide participants on the subject.

            Likewise, there are differences observed between the CU and the TU. (CHÁVEZ HERNÁNDEZ, 2014) states that the CU should be understood as a modern learning center and shows the following differences between them:

·        The CU is oriented to the creation and application of specific firms’ concepts; the TU to the general and universal knowledge.

·        The CU allows developing a greater sensitivity to the information that is transmitted due to the practical activities that are carried out and specific applications’ predominance; the TU refers to more general concepts.

·        In its dynamics, the CU promotes integration of activities, ideas generation and exchange, achieving greater people’s involvement, aspect that the TU is trying to achieve.

2.2.1.   The CU in smaller organizations

            The CU is not restricted to large companies. (LORENZATTI, 2010) says that CUs are created in smaller companies (for example, with a total of 50 employees) were senior management is convinced to carry it out and the business areas collaborate to align the basic training objectives with people’s needs.

            Complementing the above, (SORIA DEL RÍO, 2012) establishes a paradigm shift due to the close relationship between the CU and the company’s vision / mission, and reaffirms that not only large organizations are implementing them.

            As a result, it is verified that the size of the organization does not matter, and the adoption of a CU by small companies is still less surprising.

2.2.2.   CU benefits

            As the CUs’ value added, (ZAMBRANO, 2014) proposes the following:

·        Knowledge exchange with the best in class, to combine and enhance the knowledge developed internally and externally. In this way, each person is trained integrally and in the best way.

·        CU as future organizational sustainability, remarking a huge difference between the Traditional Training Department (TTD) and the CU. TTD is seen as a transactional unit in charge of meeting specific requests and not building the competencies required for the long term, and the CU emerges as a way to build the future organizational sustainability, surpassing the training concept as is known today

            Expanding the above, (CHÁVEZ HERNÁNDEZ, 2014) lists the following CU benefits:

·        Improve administrative and technical skills.

·        Contribute to people’s human development, strengthening employees’ capacities and abilities.

·        Form potential candidates, developing their career within the company.

·        Adopt applied technologies that contribute to learning processes improvement.

·        Make alliances with other educational centers to strengthen knowledge.

·        Experience and knowledge exchange through the development of projects and work practices.

·        Contribute to achieve higher organizational objectives directing appropriately the necessary financial resources.

·        Align training programs to industry standards and company objectives.

·        Act as a means of transmitting the organizational culture.

            Finally, (SORIA DEL RÍO, 2012), coinciding mostly with (CHÁVEZ HERNÁNDEZ,  2014), establishes the following CU benefits: a) continuous learning; b) adequate skills development; and c) talent and knowledge management, and their immediate application to the daily work. At the same time, says that the CU is ideal for strengthening the organization’s values, brand image and employees satisfaction.

2.2.3.   CU implementation

            Regarding the CU implementation, (ZAMBRANO, 2014) establishes some points in which executives often fail, as follows:

·        Lack of distinction between what is important and urgent.

·        Inability to apply the essential economic resources in order to make CU successful.

·        Try to emulate TUs as builders and developers of internal training programs.

            In order to achieve the CU implementation success, (ILLIE CARDOZA, 2015) establishes the following ten basic steps:

1.    The different business departments must be taken into consideration to define the knowledge to be developed in the CU.

2.    Top management and other managers must be involved and be responsible on employees’ training. Additionally, employees should be responsible for their own training and development, choosing the courses they would like to attend.

3.    Talent training alignment and management, to monitor the evolution of employees’ profiles and the applicability of the acquired knowledge.

4.    Senior managers’ involvement in knowledge dissemination. That is why they should participate and have active roles in the different sessions, having also didactic trainings.

5.    Combine what is intended and what can be done, generating shorter educational projects in terms of face-to-face activities, new training schemes and professional support; all this, to have an impact and capture as many concepts as possible during the program.

6.    Courses formats and techniques adaptation to the diverse levels of public, understanding that all employees do not learn in the same way nor do they have the same interests.

7.    Take advantage of new educational technologies, such as platforms (which allow connection with other employees worldwide) in order to break with the traditional learning barriers.

8.    Implement new ways to measure programs’ impact and evaluation. Assessment tools connected to the business should be: a) adapted, for example, measuring the return on the learning investment, and b) be known, both at business unit level and at individual level.

9.    After acquiring the necessary preparation, employees should be helped and supported in their return back to work, for which management involvement becomes central to understand the possibility to apply those concepts to their daily tasks routine.

10. Former CU participants network creation, in order to encourage continuous learning, and contribute to future development and to the belonging CU feeling.

            In this chapter were presented the theoretical elements that underpin this study, allowing to take greater dimension of the cultural change that the CU implies, not only in the present but in the future of the organizations. To be said in another way, the CU implementation opens new perspectives to develop corporate training and to sustain future business growth.

            In the following Table it is shown a summary of this Chapter:

Table 1: Corporate University (CU)

Source: Own

            In the next chapter and with the purpose of deepening this investigation, it will be used -as a field data collection technique- the study of a multinational company, located in Argentina.


            In Argentina and at the moment of this investigation, were known three CUs implemented; one of them was taken for a further analysis in this work as the other two couldn’t share information because of company's confidential reasons. The data collected came from the interactions carried out with top managers and managers of the firm that was analyzed.

            The company taken as a case for analysis[2] was a leader in the Argentinean food industry, exporting to +120 countries with +21,000 employees, 41 industrial plants, 12 commercial offices and 13 distribution centers in Latin America.

3.1.        CU need and creation

            CU need emerged in 2006 -thanks to the redefinition of the strategic objectives, the vision and the mission of the company- since new competencies and knowledge were needed to satisfactorily address the future. The new vision and mission focused on finding new creative and innovative methods to maintain market leadership. This project was personally led by the General Manager and the Human Resources Director.

            Until 2008, each business unit was responsible for its own training initiatives, having a lack of coordination and synergy with other areas, and with functions overlapping at every level of the company. This inconvenience led the General Manager to implement a CU, which in 2008 became the Training Initiatives Center.

3.2.        Overall CU objectives

            At this point, the need for greater efficiency and effectiveness in corporate training became a basic requirement. Hence, the main CU objectives were:

·         Generate a healthy business -with clear competitive advantages- that could be sustained in the long term.

·         Provoke a greater sense of belonging and motivation in each employee.

·         Promote leadership practices at all levels.

·         Generate contexts that favor creativity, innovation and the emergence of new practices to be implemented in the business.

3.3.        CU implementation – General approach

            Training and competence plans development were in charge of the Corporate Center that, being in contact with the various business areas, had the opportunity to know the skills and competences that were needed. From this interaction, training programs and course offerings emerged with the aim of nurturing the greatest amount of necessary company competences. As a consequence and at the time of the present investigation, the CU reached -with its program´s offer- 80% of the company's personnel worldwide.

            In addtion, the CU had the assignment of developing the company's vision,  the core competences -such as leadership and motivation- and the educational offer, taking into account the past and present experience of each employee to provide concrete foundations for change facilitation.

            The CU implementation was intended to solve certain problems clearly evidenced within the company, such as:

·        Role superposition and inconsistencies while messaging final customers.

·        Control problems on training programs (for ex.: costs and progress degrees).

·        Skills heterogeneity to be developed as they were defined by each area.

·        Difference between what is studied in the training and its subsequent implementation in the daily work.

            The specific objectives at the time of the CU implementation were:

·        Maximization of resources invested in training.

·        Training organization and systematization.

·        Knowledge generation, retention and transfer between the different areas of the company.

·        Centralization of the educational process and of learning content.

·        Help with competences to be developed on company change process.

·        Creation of a belonging sense to the organization and to its culture.

·        Current competitive advantages maintenance and new ones generation. Certain managers highlighted that this is a key point in the actual competitive landscape as the lack of innovation and growth cause a loss of market position and a distance trimming with competitors.

            At the same time and throughout our conversations with the different company managers, some of them said that business has become much more complex and that the smaller companies can implement a CU too. That is why they suggested that employees should have more company and business involvement, and -for that- it is essential to acquire knowledge applicable to day-to-day work.

3.4.        CU implementation - Steps

            Regarding the CU implementation, it was indicated that its development was approached in the following three stages, which are shown in the following Table:

Table 2: CU implementation – Steps and Objectives

Source: Own

            Throughout the meetings held, there were pointed out certain fundamental topics that have contributed to the CU success in this company, such as:

·        Alliances with TUs and other CUs. Regarding the alliances with two famous TUs, they were oriented to subjects such as project management and human resources, but the programs related to competences development were only provided by the firm's CU.

·        New technologies implementation. This was a central aspect for the CU success since it allowed generating an adequate students’ follow-up and control, as well as an improvement in the relationship between the student's profile and the necessary competences offer.

·        Highest company levels commitment and promotion.

·        Strategic plan preparation, aligning the vision, mission and skills required in the company.

3.4.1.   CU implementation - Benefits

            From the CU implementation, the following benefits were distinguished:

·        Learning centralization.

·        Sustaining the change process started by senior management.

·        Creation of a sense of belonging to the company and subsequent consolidation of the organizational culture.

·        Maximization of resources invested in training.

3.4.2.   CU implementation - Mistakes

            Generally, the managers interviewed were comfortable with the CU results and the benefits of its implementation. Many of them said that the CU was a step forward in company training.

            Without prejudice to the above and without trying to diminish the achieved results, the managers interviewed commented the following mistakes that were found in this implementation:

·       Focus on non-significant or urgent topics: managers said that many times there were conflicting issues from different stakeholders or different priorities that have to be considered and adequately managed. Also, in other opportunities they had to face unnecessary anxieties and urgencies of many process participants.

·       CU assimilation to a TU in terms of curricula, objectives and delivery methods.

·       Not building an alumni network to empower current existing tools.

·       Not applying economic resources in an appropriate way. It was reported that at times they have tried to announce less necessary courses or some that did not have so many enrolled participants.


            In the following paragraphs there will be shown the main findings that arouse from this study, organized in different thematic units.

4.1.        In connection with the CU creation and evolution

            It is highlighted that the CU growth has been exponential from its birth at the beginning of last century: in 1993, there were 400 CUs and by 2010 they expoded to more than 3,700, surpassing the 2000 TUs existing in USA.

            Some authors understand it as a work modality which has the objective of aligning corporate training to the company vision, mission and strategy, aspect that was verified in the Argentinean firm analyzed. Also, this CU was created to guarantee continuous learning in organizations, generating a path towards talent improvement and competitive advantage.

            Complementarily, its methods, contents and learning strategies had been remarked since the CU can be closely related to the specific characteristics requested by each of company´s areas.

            The creation of a CU is pointed out not only as an exclusive phenomenon of large corporations but also of small ones, as its existence is in connection to the commitment, collaboration and involvement of the company's top management. Also, several authors suggest a paradigm shift around the CU concept because -increasingly- small and medium-sized companies have implemented their own CU, confirming its relationship with the company’s vision and not with its size.

            It is evidenced an intersection between the corporate and educational worlds, primarily because of the greater business complexity. So, the CU has been proposed as a way to develop new knowledge and skills that are needed in the companies.

            In addtion, the worker’s role has changed from being passive to a greater involvement and a more active intervention. In this environment, knowledge is emerging as a central aspect of the company's wisdom.

4.2.        In connection with its differences with the TTD and TU

            Both in the theoretical concepts and in the analyzed case, there are shown basic differences between the CU –focused on a longer term and strategic objectives- and the Traditional Training Department (TTD), directed to a shorter term and competences’ development according to demand. In fact, it was highlighted the creation of a centralized CU and as a strategic objective of the Argentinean organization analyzed.

            Moreover, there are suggested differences between the CU –focused on practical and day-to-day matters- and the TU, oriented to a more generalist wisdom.      As a conclusion, it is possible to say that it is the work of many people -who have contact with both worlds- that should bring both realities closer together.

4.3.        In connection with its support to the organization

            Different authors argue that the CU represents a valid vehicle to develop hard skills (related to quantitative matters) and soft skills (connected with human topics). In addition and in the studied company, were verified important CU contributions to the organization, such as: a) training resources maximization, b) greater centrality of decisions and of the training process, c) support to the sense of belonging and employees’ retention, and d) contribution to change and to competitive advantage development.

            These aspects are also pointed out by the different authors studied, who –in addition- highlight the great contribution of knowledge that comes from the alliances made with other CUs.

4.4.        In connection with CU implementation

            Different specialists have verified the existence of benefits coming from the CU implementation, like:

·        Human development and candidates’ preparation to help them grow within the company.

·        New technologies’ adoption that make knowledge dissemination easier.

·        Organizational culture development.

·        The immediate application of the knowledge acquired to the daily work.

            On the other hand, both authors and the case studied remarked certain errors that were verified while implementing a CU, such as: a) companies’ inabilities to adequately apply the economic resources that are necessary for their implementation, b) not adequate distinction between important and urgent matters, and c) try to emulate the TU as internal knowledge trainer.

            In the case and authors studied, it is established the need to consider some central steps when implementing a CU, among which are: a) senior management involvement in the CU planning and on programs' dissemination, b) new technologies / platforms adoption, and c) the creation of a alumni network.

            Finally and in the case of the Argentinean firm researched, it was verified an implementation in several steps which gave more clarity and certainty to the whole process. For example and in different points in time, emphasis has been placed on programs' development and planning, on the necessary future skills, on students’ enrollment, and on the educational offer consolidation and expansion.

            Throughout the present investigation, there were shown some aspects of the CU environment and its perspectives. Qualitative aspects have been covered, verifying that there is still much more to be done on this matter.

            It has been highlighted the importance of knowledge development and application as a fundamental element for the future organizational and society wellbeing. Moreover, knowledge management has been pointed out as a central issue for human development.

            It is accentuated that -increasingly- the organizations' life depends on new elements that can be unveiled. That is why it is emphasized an alignment to novel ways of doing, and to be able to access to knowledge and many more resources than the ones that the firm may ever access. Finally, it is neccessary to understand that it is useless to insist with old and worn recipes of a past that will never happen again. These are some reasons why the CU should be seriously and much more considered and implemented in Argentina.


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[1] See in References the different studies made as VILTARD, L. A.

[2] The firm’s executives asked not to be named and not to name the firm because of confidential reasons.

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