Enterprise education in the United Kingdom

Chalk head drawn on blackboard with several sticky notes marked with question mark.

In October 2012 Enterprise Educators UK (EEUK) and a host of other UK expert individuals and groups worked with the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) to produce the first UK guidelines for teaching Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education in the curriculum.

This usefully included some definitions I’ll share here:
“Enterprise: the application of creative ideas and innovations to practical situations.”
“Entrepreneurship: the application of enterprise skills specifically to creating and growing organisations in order to identify and build on opportunities.”

Enterprise Education is thus education which develops the capacity for students to generate and demonstrate how ideas are developed into innovative products and services which deliver cultural, economic, environmental, intellectual, and social value. This involves a mix of business & market awareness, professional skills development, and mindset development around personal values, motivation, risk-tolerance, and opportunity assessment. Entrepreneurship education develops specific knowledge on how to start a venture that capitalises on that idea.

Can you teach this stuff?

Certainly, not all of it can be easily taught – there is a lot of mindset and attitude around entrepreneurship for example – but this can nevertheless be learnt in the right environment. While traditional teaching can impart some of the knowledge that future entrepreneurs might need most enterprise educators are using a variety of experiential teaching methods to create environments in which students learn skills and self-efficacy by doing. We use simulations, we build challenges set in real-world activities, we use case studies of real companies, we invite in real entrepreneurs or customers, and we set practical activities that test presentation skills, teamwork, commercial analysis and more.

Why would you teach it?

Government and Universities increasingly wish to create commercially aware, highly-skilled, self-aware and self-confident graduates who will add value to society through the development and delivery of social and commercial enterprise – either through their own start-up or by adding intrapreneurial value to existing organisations.

It should be stressed that enterprise, entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship and innovation are not solely the preserve of physical sciences, engineering and technology research – they are an equally valid and important part of Arts, Social Science, and Medical research. Neither is it the case that these terms refer exclusively to commercial models of business – raising awareness of social and cultural enterprise only serves to highlight how a degree of business acumen can help anyone make sure their ideas bear fruit through transforming society and culture for the better.

We have recognised the value that entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial behaviour plays in the development of world-class graduates and researchers. Spotting and seizing opportunities, building networks of value, and exploring the value and impact of ideas beyond traditional frameworks are all part of both the academic research landscape and the employability profile required by students completing their university studies.

Enterprise Education is not mutually exclusive with conventional subject content, employability development, or public engagement. It is in fact an excellent vehicle for delivering all of those things. Nationally there is a move away from teaching enterprise and entrepreneurship as an isolated subject – it is increasingly being embedded in other subject disciplines including History, Biochemistry, Veterinary Science, and Engineering. Everyone needs to be enterprising even if we don’t all need to be entrepreneurs.

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