University of Self-Employment

Julie Deane’s (of The Cambridge Satchel Company fame) ‘Self-Employment Review‘, published in February 2016, cited 5 key themes (Importance/ Significance; Motivation; Diversity; Evolution; Equality and Fairness) and made 10 recommendations around:

  1. Education to better prepare our young people
  2. Advice and support should be as accessible as possible
  3. Need for more flexible financial solutions
  4. Equal treatment and recognition
  5. Need for a legal definition of self-employment
  6. Overly complicated legislation
  7. Need for an Impact Assessment
  8. Shared work spaces are becoming more important
  9. Technology has revolutionised the way we work

With self employment growing (see my uber-economy blog), what role can universities play in supporting self employment?

Clearly some of the recommendations are easier for universities to respond to than others. Universities can provide exceptional enterprise education – both in the curriculum (1) and outside (2). Just look the enterprise offer at the University of Leeds (winner of the Duke of York Award for University Entrepreneurship 2015). But what about some of the other recommendations?

Universities do have an important role to play in promoting self employment as a real career option (4) and can provide access to early start-up finance through competitions and bursaries (3). Many universities now have on-campus incubation space (9) and have good links with follow-on space (9). Of course, universities remain a ‘safe space’ to learn and this includes about leading edge technology (10).

However, universities can go even further by supporting the development of enterprise skills in their graduates – which are of value to any organisation no matter how large or small.

But perhaps the value of ‘an enterprising’ university degree is even greater than the knowledge and skills acquired – and includes the networks and personal confidence to make real economic, social and cultural impact.

Professor Nigel Lockett
Professor of Enterprise at Leeds University Business School