Enterprise education’s ever decreasing circles: A review of a review of a review!

This week saw the publishing of two major documents relating to enterprise education in the UK – the ‘Wilson Review of Business-University Collaboration’ and the ‘QAA Enterprise and entrepreneurship education: Draft for consultation’.

The Wilson Review (2012) looks a progress since the Lambert Review (2003) and of course I’m just reviewing these! Both reviews are far reaching but cover enterprise education or developing enterprise skills  – the focus of this blog.

The CBI (2011) found that graduates lacked commercial awareness but enterprise education has ambitions far beyond this and, as the QAA report (2012) usefully suggests, ‘aims to produce graduates with the mindset and skills to come up with original ideas in response to identified needs and shortfalls, and the ability to act on them. In short, having an idea and making it happen’ or transforming ideas into opportunities.

In fact, enterprise education is aiming to help students to achieve ‘entrepreneurial effectiveness’. In practice, this means developing enterprise awareness, an entrepreneurial mindset and entrepreneurial capabilities on the way.

The QQA report (2012) defines these as:

  • Enterprise awareness: understanding ‘what enterprise means to me’.
  • Developing an entrepreneurial mindset: participating in enterprising learning and activities.
  • Developing entrepreneurial capability: developing capability and confidence through guided experience and practice.
  • Entrepreneurial effectiveness: independent self-direction progressing individual goals and approaches.

But, how is this achieved? Wilson is clear that no one model fits all and QAA offer a framework rather than a solution. They are right not to be prescriptive but we need to see this as a ‘call to action’.

That means developing curriculum to support students at all levels (undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral) and across all disciplines – this could be by open electives (Leeds Enterprise Centre) or embedded – and delivered by committed and talented staff. But, it also means providing real opportunities for learning through doing – typically but not exclusively through extra-curricula activities, like Spark (student start-up). In fact, you can also achieve this in ‘alternate reality’ credit bearing modules, like ‘Innovating Social Enterprise’.

Wilson rightly highlights the important role of student societies including enterprise (supported by NACUE) and SIFE.

For me, the final element are the entrepreneurs themselves – be they local or international – some of whom will be alumni. Their role is simple! To bring enterprise alive with their real-life experience in order to help inspire students and mentor them both at university and beyond. A tall order? What this space …

Prof Nigel Lockett FRSA

Professor of Enterprise at Leeds University Business School
President of the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship