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This study examined to what extent graduate employees' cognitive proximity to universities and firms' external knowledge acquisition strategies are positively associated with the likelihood that firms in rural and metropolitan regions collaborate with universities in Denmark. These links were explored using a dataset that combined data from the Danish Research and Innovation Survey with Danish register data. The results pointed to a positive association between firms’ employment of graduates and industry-university collaboration, which was stronger among firms in rural regions than firms in the Copenhagen metropolitan region; however, drawing on external non-university knowledge was similarly associated to industry-university collaboration among firms in rural regions and in the Copenhagen metropolitan region. Regardless of their location, firms were more likely to collaborate with universities if they collaborated with other organisations and were less likely to collaborate with universities if they sought knowledge from other sources, even without necessarily collaborating with them. Although firms in rural regions tended to be farther away from universities than firms in the Copenhagen metropolitan region, the former might be able to collaborate with universities because graduate employees can provide firms with a better understanding of the research conducted there. Thus, firms in rural regions might not need to be geographically proximate to universities in order to collaborate with them.