Reflecting On The Role Of Universities In Entrepreneurship Education

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Since the 80’s entrepreneurship education has grown in importance within Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Due to this increased importance devoted to entrepreneurship and its role in socio-economic development, a plethora of entrepreneurial educational and training programmes were created and implemented globally. Despite this plethora of educational programmes the socio-economic environment in many countries have not improved to address critical problems such as rising unemployment and skewed distribution of wealth. In order to address these critical problems the question that can be asked is whether transformation is required in the way entrepreneurship education is approached.

Coventry University has decided to contribute to the discussion on the dilemmas of socio-economic growth through a dynamic focus on transformational entrepreneurship. To steer such a process an International Centre for Transformational Entrepreneurship (ICTE) was created on 1 August 2015. This article firstly provides an overview of transformational entrepreneurship and its impact on entrepreneurship education and, secondly, sets out the approach of ICTE addressing entrepreneurship education.

It is commonly accepted that the global world is connected due to technological development. In this connected world, innovation breeds innovation and individual entrepreneurs find it difficult to act successfully on their own in such a competitive environment. Furthermore, the realisation that socio-economic development is under pressure of performing influences entrepreneurial educators to rethink the way they support entrepreneurship education within entrepreneurial ecosystems and debate how it should be transformed in order to address critical challenges in a constructive manner. Within this ecosystem context, for example, HEIs cannot change their entrepreneurship education practices in isolation without taking other subsystems (i.e. role-players) into consideration.

The question therefore is on what critical elements entrepreneurship education should focus to support transformation in the way socio-economic development is pursued. In this regard, Roth and DiBella (2015) state that five capabilities are required to enable systemic change, namely enterprise awareness (e.g. knowledge of the total industry in which one operates); innovation (e.g. innovation that has a wider impact); balancing push (e.g. actions from management side) and pull factors (e.g. new knowledge obtained by employees) of change; seeking growth (e.g. to scale-able businesses) and leadership (e.g. mobilising resources to improve socio-economic development). Entrepreneurship education has an important role to play to assist systemic changes that can lead to transformation. Entrepreneurship education should focus on improving the abilities of leaders to make a substantial contribution to socio-economic growth. Specific focus should be on:

  • improving their holistic and heuristic abilities (ability to explore and asking questions such as why not? or/and what if?),
  • improving their abilities to create innovation that can act as basis for further development (so-called second order innovation),
  • learning what knowledge to gain and share on a continuous basis spearheading socio-economic development, and,
  • learning how to support other players in the entrepreneurial ecosystem to achieve these transformational goals.

New knowledge and practices are essential for transformation, which necessitates the testing of existing entrepreneurship educational practices, keeping those that are fit for purpose, and develop new practices to replace obsolete practices. HEIs can and should do much more to ascertain that entrepreneurial education practices are truly supporting the current and future potential and existing entrepreneurs.

The creation of ICTE followed a strategic decision by Coventry University to contribute to activities that can spearhead socio-economic growth through a new focus on transformational entrepreneurship. The creation of ICTE followed a focus on micro enterprise under the auspices of the Institute for Applied Entrepreneurship (IAE) activities, which restructured into ICTE and the Coventry University Social Entrepreneurship Ltd company. With this change in focus, Coventry University is not arguing against traditional micro and subsistence enterprises. They remain important for cascading wealth to the broader society, but it is accepted that Coventry University can play a far more active role in the promotion of socio-economic activities.

ICTEs focus is guided by the Coventry University Corporate Plan (Coventry University Corporate Strategy 2021), global phenomena and regional realities. The ICTE strategy builds upon these pillars and defines its mission as “utilising enterprise and entrepreneurship to foster leadership that can organise resources, act upon opportunities and create economic and social impact beyond the local level”. Furthermore, the purpose of ICTE is to promote enterprise and entrepreneurship through a systemic approach, bringing about transformation in socio-economic development.

There are five pillars underpinning ICTE’s mission and purpose, namely:

  • Entrepreneurial leadership – which aims to forge a new generation of great entrepreneurial thinkers and doers globally.
  • Entrepreneurial education – which aims to create new knowledge appropriate for the needs of specific communities to support transformational entrepreneurship.
  • Innovation – to drive forward novel ways of doing business for the 21st century in a responsible manner.
  • Sustainable socio-economic development – to ensure a healthy and equal society by meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future.
  • Policy support – to analyse and promote enterprise and entrepreneurial policies that will enable transformational entrepreneurship.

ICTE accepts that it is not easy to scale up businesses from a traditional micro-enterprise mind-set. Therefore, through educational practices, ICTE will endeavour to support entrepreneurial mind-sets that can be labelled as transformational. Currently, all modules and programmes of ICTE are revisited to make adjustments towards transformational entrepreneurship. This will be no easy task because it calls for a total systemic approach which turns out to be a difficult process to change. However, if this is not done, what alternatives are there left for sustainable socio-economic development?

 

 

About the Authors

Professor Gideon Maas | Director International Centre for Transformational Entrepreneurship Coventry University, UK

Prof Maas has broad international business and academic experiences. Over the past few years, he has created various entrepreneurship centres at different universities, developed and implemented undergraduate and post-graduate modules and programmes focusing specifically on enterprise and entrepreneurship. He was previously, amongst others the Director of Futures Entrepreneurship Centre and Professor in Entrepreneurship at Plymouth University; Director of the Institute of Applied Entrepreneurship at Coventry University and owner-manager of his own consulting company.

Professor Paul Jones | Deputy Director International Centre for Transformational Entrepreneurship Coventry University, UK

Prof Paul Jones leads the research activity for ICTE. He is an experienced researcher with 180 research outputs including one edited book, five book chapters, 42 journals and 100+ conference and invited papers. Prof Jones is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and sit on the Board of Trustees of the Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE). He is Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour and Research and Associate Editor for the International Journal of Management Education.