While the expansion in entrepreneurship education in Australian universities is impressive when assessed in terms of number of programs and curriculum offerings, a closer look reveals a more complex picture with a range of challenges.

The first postgraduate course focusing on entrepreneurship in Australian universities was introduced in the 1990s and the numbers have grown steadily since. A 2014 review of entrepreneurship education in Australia, for example, reported that over 95 per cent of Australian universities teach entrepreneurship at undergraduate level and 90 per cent at postgraduate level.

Support for entrepreneurship education extends beyond the formal curriculum. For example, peak lobby group Universities Australia has identified more than 100 programs supporting start-ups at the 38 public universities it represents.

In addition to formal curriculum, these initiatives include masterclasses, support for initiatives such as maker-spaces, accelerators and incubators. Many are open to staff, students and alumni, and some offer the backing of seed capital.

Judged in terms of activity and official support, entrepreneurship education would appear to be doing well. But the true picture is more complex.

Entrepreneurship education: A story of uneven support

Entrepreneurship education in Australia tends to be concentrated within business schools, rather than spread more evenly throughout the university. And, as the 2014 review of entrepreneurship education in Australia noted above found, the programs tend to be peripheral and focused more on teaching and pushing out publication, rather than engaging with industry or fostering entrepreneurial enterprises.

From an applied point of view, it is even questionable whether business schools are the natural home of entrepreneurship. While business skills are undoubtedly helpful in bringing an idea to market, the initial idea could come from any discipline.

Attempts to extend entrepreneurship education beyond the confines of the business school meet with mixed results. While entrepreneurship education often enjoys high levels of support from senior academic leaders and from state and Federal legislators and policy makers, the level of support it enjoys among teaching staff is highly uneven.

For example, in 2012 La Trobe University in Melbourne implemented a strategy to make entrepreneurial education — referred to “Innovation and Entrepreneurship” — an integral part of every undergraduate degree.

Each degree would be required to have at least one compulsory subject containing learning and assessment activities about innovation and entrepreneurship. This included one major assessment task on entrepreneurship worth at least 25 per cent of the final grade for the subject. If such a subject could not be fit into content of the degree, students need to be able to take electives to cover the same content —  potentially from another part of the university.

In practice, ensuring that all students have access to such content within their degree proved challenging. Degrees accredited by professional bodies, for example, found it difficult to accommodate this requirement, particularly the 25 per cent minimum. While the university valued entrepreneurship education, it was not necessarily a priority for accrediting bodies already struggling with crowded curricula.

Support for the integration of such content also varies across disciplines. As the subject co-ordinator of a public relations subject put it, If we don’t embed innovation and entrepreneurship, what have we taught them? I don’t think there is a choice. The question is: how quickly can we get it into the curriculum”.

Other teaching staff perceived the decision to integrate innovation and entrepreneurship as imposed in a top-down manner. Asked why she embedded innovation and entrepreneurship in her subject, one academic in the humanities and social sciences said simply “we were told to”.

Entrepreneurship and higher education: a tale of two cultures?

It is noteworthy that many of the more ambitious efforts to encourage entrepreneurship, such as incubators and accelerators, are often established separately — both organisationally, and, in some cases geographically — from their host university.

The University of Wollongong’s iAccelerate program’s offices, for example, are separate from the main campus. iAccelerate even maintains a separate website from the university website.

While such decisions are made for sound reasons, such as creating purpose-built facilities for events and activities that are more appropriate and accessible to businesses and community stakeholders — as is the case for iAccelerate — it can also serve to reinforce differences between the culture of academia and that of entrepreneurship.

This is perhaps best illustrated by the different incentives for academics as compared to entrepreneurs. Career progression in Australian academia remains strongly linked to attracting research income and publishing in peer-reviewed journals.

While commercialising research and patenting intellectual property are strongly encouraged and supported by both institutions and policy makers, this is a less developed path to career progression. Meanwhile, starting new ventures and engaging with industry, while growing, are uncertain paths to career progression.

The cultural differences also extend to the types of teaching and learning encouraged in more innovative hatchery-style and accelerator-type programs. Mentors and facilitators in such programs are often guided by student interest.  Even when facilitators introduce topics, it is the students who shape the learning environment and the curriculum through their own specific requirements, interests and perspectives.

In this way the student and the educator negotiate the content and each student strives to achieve their unique determined outcomes. Participants in entrepreneurship education need to be able to handle uncertainty and ambiguity and overcome adverse circumstances.

Such modes of instruction are outside of many academics’ teaching experience. The typical teaching pattern is one where students work through a set curriculum in a prescribed and pedagogical manner in a more formal entrepreneurship course such as in a Business School. These course types emphasise formal planning and skill building. They are often regulated and structured in what they teach by accreditation bodies and government regulations, such as the Australian Qualification Framework (AQF).

Future directions

In spite of these challenges, time, energy and money is being devoted to overcoming these challenges. These include awareness programs such as boot camps and week-end workshops and pitch competitions to start-ups, accelerators and incubators.

And these efforts are leading to real collaborations between students, staff, alumni and entrepreneurs. For example, the 2017 launch of the SPARK Deakin Accelerator, an initiative of Deakin University in Victoria, saw 100 mentors, staff and members of the start-up community come together to pitch ideas and seek funding.

While the program does not have connections to the formal curriculum, it has established a solid series of entrepreneurship and networking events, right through to workshops for students to gain hands-on experience in start-up skills. The program offers $10,000 AUD in Deakin funding for start-ups along with space and mentoring opportunities for successful start-up ideas.

Entrepreneurship education in universities is also being assisted by government funding initiatives. Recently the Victorian government launched a $60 million start-up initiative LaunchVic.

One of the 18 projects that shared in the first round of funding included La Trobe University, in a partnership with Deakin University and Federation University. This will focus on developing regional start-ups by providing funding, mentoring, and access to university experts working in the areas of sport, engineering, law, business, marketing and media.

While these will not solve institutional constraints, entrenched attitudes and ingrained cultural barriers, they do nevertheless offer a start in advancing entrepreneurship education within higher education. The success of such initiatives will be when they offer measurable progress in enhancing employability and proven models for growing the next generation of entrepreneurs.

This article originally appeared in 2018 University Industry innovation Magazine issue 2 dedicated to Entrepreneurship in Education. You can download the magazine in full for free here.

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Authors:

Dr Christopher Scanlon is Associate Director, Transformation & Learning Enhancement in the Learning Transformations Unit, at Swinburne University. He has a track record of driving strategic change in higher education, which has been recognised with an Australian Government Office of Learning and Teaching National Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning.

Dr Silvia McCormack is the Academic Coordinator Coursework at La Trobe University in the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce. She is strongly committed to the success of the University and its students and to the student experience. Her role involves the development, promotion, implementation and evaluation of strategies to foster high-quality and innovative approaches to curriculum design, course development and learning and teaching.

It is common to see entrepreneurship learning activities focus on the ‘idea-generation’ aspect of a business start-up. However, equally important for entrepreneurial success is the ability to transform business ideas in to commercially viable products or services. Through an innovative entrepreneurship module entitled “Discovery Panel”, (which started in the Münster University of Applied Sciences (MUAS) and is now implemented in the Munich School of Business) students are connected with entrepreneurs and their already existing business ideas so that they can assist them in evaluating its commercial viability. Pioneered by Prof. Todd Davey, this approach changes the focus from idea generation to allow students to understand the practicalities of transforming an idea in to a viable business proposition.

How does it work?

The purpose of Discovery Panel is to help students understand the entire innovation process while enhancing their transversal skills such as team work, communication, inter-cultural understanding and leadership. To this end, the program brings on-board researchers, entrepreneurs and/or NGO’s (stakeholders) who have a business idea but might not necessarily have the resources to verify its comercial viabilyt and further develop it.

The first task students perform in the Discovery Panel is to thoroughly understand the specific idea and needs of the stakeholders. Here, it should be noted that the ideas presented might have different level of development. Following that, students undertake a preliminary investigation of the proposed product/service and its target market to acquire a basic understanding of the factors at play. Then, guided by the findings of the preliminary investigation and the feedback of both the stakeholders and Prof. Davey, the students carry out a more focused and in-depth study. The process concludes with a presentation, where students give a concrete recommendation to the stakeholders including a detailed product/service, price, place and promotion strategies.

The module is offered as a semester course where there is a 1.5-hour weekly meeting for 3 months. What is noteworthy about the arrangement of the course is that the total time is evenly divided between theory – lecture and explanations, and practice – time spent on solving the stakeholders’ problem.

Drivers and barriers

The main driver behind Discovery Panel is that it creates a win-win situation for the external stakeholders and students. The participating stakeholders benefit from the research output and the concrete recommendations provided, while the students benefit from the practical insight that is gained by working on real cases.  On the other hand, the difficulty of finding a lecturer with the relevant practical experience and the resources required to bring external stakeholders on-board were mentioned by Prof. Davey as the main barriers. Yet, despite some of the challenges, the course has been successful, particularly in terms of developing student soft and hard skills. Lastly, it is worth mentioning that the module has recently been introduced in Munich Business School.

This article is based on a case study originally written by Andre Perusso (Münster University of Applied Sciences) developed as part of the Erasmus + Knowledge Alliance Project “Integrating Entrepreneurship and Work Experience into Higher Education” (WEXHE).

©all rights on images used in this article belong to Münster University of Applied Sciences  

For many years higher education institutions across the globe have initiated new entrepreneurship programmes. Many of these programmes have shown positive outcomes in terms of new start-ups generated, or entrepreneurial skills gained by students. However, we are yet to develop a unified model to determine the impact and evaluate the design and content of these programmes. As such, the European Commission needs your help.

Are you a student or lecturer in entrepreneurship education? We kindly ask you for 8 minutes of your time in completing the survey for the evaluation of entrepreneurship education programmes:

The results of this survey will form the basis of the design of an online tool that will help students pick the right programme in terms of design, impact and content and will support educators with ensuring they achieve the intended impact, reach their target group and in designing the programme.

Need more information? Please visit the project website at https://epic.ecorys.com.

We would like to kindly thank you for your support in the further development of entrepreneurship education

The ongoing transition to an increasingly knowledge-intensive economy has sparked entrepreneurial transformation across several regions, and Lithuania is no different. Soon after gaining independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, Lithuania placed entrepreneurship in the front and center of its education policy. Consequently, most of the higher learning institutions in the country started setting up centers that facilitate entrepreneurial transformation. This is in addition to incorporating entrepreneurship education as a mandatory element of their curricula. Center for Enterprise (CEP) at the Vytautas Magnus University (VMU) has emerged as a direct outcome of this movement, offering a number of entrepreneurial programs that bring together the companies in the region with students and the academic community at large. The center is specifically setup to integrate and sustain the fragmented and often intermittent entrepreneurial initiatives of scholars and students, thereby contributing not only to the global standing of the university but also to the development of an entrepreneurial eco-system in Kaunas region.

Entrepreneurial programs offered at CEP

The center follows a structured approach towards inculcating entrepreneurial values and competencies amongst its students. Particularly, three sequential entrepreneurship-support programs are offered by the center: the Entrepreneurship Academy, the Entrepreneurship Laboratory and Smart Practices.

The Entrepreneurship Academy program gives recognition to the fact that entrepreneurial transformation begins with a change in mindset. As such it mainly concentrates on creating interest amongst participants. The program follows a very broad admission policy, catering not only to students who aspire to become an entrepreneur but also to those who do not plan to join an entrepreneurial pathway in the near future. What is unique about this program is that accomplished entrepreneurs from a wide range of sectors are invited to share their experiences with participants.  The diversity of the invited speakers is especially important in a Liberal Arts University like VMU in getting across the point that entrepreneurship is not restricted to technology-intensive disciplines.

After completing the Entrepreneurship Academy program those interested in further developing their entrepreneurial capability join the “Entrepreneurship Laboratory” program. Here a team of multidisciplinary students are presented with the actual problems of participating companies for which they are expected to find solutions as part of a course. The team operates with the technical assistance of their university professors and under the mentorship of company representatives. After spending up to four months in the problem the team presents its recommendation both to the participating companies and the university. If the students are still interested to further develop their idea they will join the third stage i.e., Smart Practice. However, it is important to note that only handful of students (i.e., around 25%) are accepted into this program. Unlike stage one and two, here students are temporarily placed within one of the participating organizations, either to further refine their work from the Entrepreneurial Lab program or tackle a novel problem. The Smart Practice is often conducted in a form of an internship.

The overall impact of the program has been positive on the regional eco-system in general and the participants in particular. First and foremost, there has been a positive change of attitude amongst students, professors and organizations in the region. The students benefit from hands-on experience and entrepreneurial competences, which considerably enhance their competiveness in the labor market. Benefits to the participating companies are also apparent. Apart from finding workable business solutions and fresh ideas from the team of multi-disciplinary students, they use the opportunity to recruit competent students after their graduation. The early success of CEP has attracted significant interest from other universities and public institutions in the region, with pilot trials already being underway.

To learn more about the nature of the entrepreneurial activities at VMU, please see the full case study here

Authored by Habtamu Diriba and Hacer Tercanli

©all rights on images used in this article belong to the Vytautas Magnus University 

This article was originally published at uiin.org and is based on the case study collected and developed within University-Business Cooperation in Europe Study https://www.ub-cooperation.eu/

“Entrepreneurship is when you act upon opportunities and ideas and transform them into value for others. The value that is created can be financial, cultural, or social”- with this opening definition EntreComp Into Action User Guide invites its readers on a journey to explore outstanding case studies, tools and ideas that have successfully employed the Entrepreneurship Competence Framework (EntremComp) of the European Commission inside the European Union. We are honoured that the EEE Teaching Toolkit has been selected by the responsible committee as one of the good practice examples in the tools section of the user guide.

What is EntreComp and EntreComp Into Action User Guide?

In brief, EntreComp has been developed to provide a coherent conceptual understanding for entrepreneurship education inside the EU. As such, the framework  it sets the ground for identifying relevant knowledge, skills and attitudes that comprise “entrepreneurial mindset”, and observes it through three major competence areas, which are subdivided  into 15 competences each:

1) Ideas & Opportunities,

2) Resources, and

3) Into Action.

EntreComp Into Action User Guide has been devised to navigate individuals and organizations that aspire to develop entrepreneurial competences through lifelong learning, formal/non-formal teaching and training activities, as well as In working environment. The Guide provides a comprehensive introduction to EnteComp and highlights 70 outstanding examples that have successfully implemented the framework. These case studies, tools and ideas reflect on the ways entrepreneurial learning can be integrated across various sectors and for different audiences.

How is the EEE Teaching Toolkit connected to EntreComp?

Successfully serving its purpose, EntreComp provided a clear structural guidance for the development of 23 combinable teaching modules that compose the EEE Teaching Toolkit. As a matter of fact, the EEE Teaching Toolkit is a powerful entrepreneurship education instrument to:

  • Embed and facilitate entrepreneurial teaching and learning in HEIs,
  • Provide guidance for HEI lecturers and curriculum planners,
  • Sensitise HEI staff with non-business backgrounds for the added-value of entrepreneurship education,
  • Catalyse the inclusion of entrepreneurship education into HEI curricula,

Involve stakeholders of the entrepreneurial eco-system in practically driven entrepreneurship courses.

Incorporating the EntreComp competences framework, EEE Teaching Toolkit reflects on the main dimensions needed for educating successful entrepreneurs.  It translates the core ideas behind the EntreComp framework into practical exercises, that aims at “nurturing a new generation of entrepreneurs” in line with the goals of Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan. With its outputs and specifically EEE Teaching Toolkit, EEE project makes a significant contribution to EU policy to “stimulate the development of entrepreneurial, creative and innovation skills in all disciplines in all three circles”(2011 Agenda for the Modernization of Europe’s HE Systems).

We thank Univations for providing  the input for this blog article

©all rights on images used in this article belong to European Commission