Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore how corporate real estate (CRE) managers of higher education institutions formulate their CRE strategies and CRE operating decisions to align CRE with the corporate strategies of these institutions. Design/methodology/approach – An analytical alignment framework has been developed, which was used to study the possible and actual connections between CRE management and corporate management at 13 large Dutch Universities of Applied Sciences. The data collection included a content analysis of the strategic plans of these universities and interviews with the CRE managers. Findings – The research findings show several layers of how CRE managers aim to align CRE with corporate goals to add value to the organization. It appears that the CRE strategies in-use are more clearly aligned with the corporate strategies than with the espoused CRE strategies. Practical implications – The paper emphasizes the relevance of involving CRE management in corporate decision-making to contribute to the attainment of the organizational objectives with an efficient and effective accommodation. Originality/value – Substantial changes in learning and teaching practices in higher education lead to evolving corporate strategies, which result in the need for aligned CRE strategies and CRE operating decisions. This paper makes practitioners and researchers aware of the differences between alignment-based espoused CRE strategies and alignment that results from CRE strategies in-use in the field of higher education. The findings and insights might be applicable in other sectors as well.