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The '3Es' – Enterprise, Entrepreneurship, Employability

14 Sep 2021 | Stuart Norton and Leigh Sear As part of our six-month Connect Member Benefit series 'Student Success', Leigh Sear and Stuart Norton introduce the Advance HE Guide to the Framework for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education.

Enterprise, Entrepreneurship, Employability – the ‘3Es’ are not new to the Higher Education (HE) landscape. However, the global health pandemic has focussed the spotlight on labour markets around the globe and there is a renewed recognition, and indeed emphasis, on positively supporting student trajectories through and beyond university by enhancing a range of activities linked to the 3Es.

While there are positive signs of economic recovery; the World Bank (2021) suggesting that the global economy is on track for a strong but uneven growth, the last 24 months have been disruptive for many, if not all. To highlight the recent challenges, the UK economy (as measured by gross domestic product) fell by 9.9% in 2020 from its 2019 level (ONS 2020). To place this in context, that is the largest contraction since 1709. This inevitably has a knock-on effect in terms of employment. Graduates, while still more resilient to this impact, appear to have been significantly affected too: Further data from the Office for National Statistics (2021) showed that unemployment for recent graduates reached 12.0% in 'quarter 3' of 2020 [1]. This suggests that they have been adversely affected by the pandemic in terms of unemployment and we are yet unclear as to what the long term impact may be. These challenges to the graduate labour market in the UK are replicated around the globe – research by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE), in conjunction with the International Network of Employers and University Careers Services (2020), showed that across all 21 countries represented in their survey, the respondents described a negative change in the graduate labour market which they attributed to Covid-19. While cautious optimism can be applied to more recent figures from the ISE whose UK based survey (n=136) shows graduate recruitment has increased by 36% in 2021, there may still be long-term implications with some of the problems faced by this year’s graduates enduring and impact on those students graduating next year and beyond. 

The pandemic has compounded an issue the HE sector has genuinely been engaging with for a number of years - the issue of the changing labour market. For graduates this is an ever present aspect of graduation; and there is a growing evidence base that enterprise and entrepreneurship education can assist students in navigating the changes in the labour market.  E & E education can add value through the development of enterprising skills as well as understanding of the value of these skills in different contexts (QAA 2018).  Whilst there are a number of opportunities in embedding E & E education (e.g. engagement with external stakeholders, innovation in assessment of learning), there are a number of challenges to ensuring that this value is actually realised (e.g. support to provide staff and students with the space and time to be enterprising).  The  Advance HE guide has been developed to provide staff with a resource to explore how to realise the value of E & E education.

Of course, there are many diverse, intriguing, insightful, and innovative approaches to the issues of embedding and expanding a range of aspects to support the 3Es in their wider context. Indeed, two case study series by published by Advance HE in 2020 and 2021 brought together 39 examples of sector drawn practice. Collectively these highlight that the 3Es and embedded practices are increasingly common within the sector. In order to further support the sector in this regard we have developed a guide to support the Advance HE Framework for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education. Published in 2019, the framework was developed in partnership with EEUKIOEEISBESFEDI and the QAA. The Framework consists of four interdependent layers (the definitions, the learner, staff, and the institution) which identify how enterprise and entrepreneurship education can add value to the learner experience. It is a resource to help institutions provide appropriate and effective activities and experiences so that students can identify what is involved in being enterprising and entrepreneurial, helping them to navigate their future careers and be more resilient in the face of labour market challenges. The guide complements the framework by unpacking each layer of the framework in greater detail, with a particular focus on recognising practical considerations in the development and delivery of effective enterprise and entrepreneurship curriculum and/or extra-curricula activity. In doing so we can explore specifically  the ways in which enterprise and entrepreneurship education can support the learner; whether that be through promoting positive attitudes, entrepreneurial experiences, opportunities to think and learn in enterprising ways etc. Critically, it is the ability to transfer these experiences into different contexts, regardless of discipline and regardless of whether they want to be self-employed or enterprising when working in the private, public or voluntary and community sector - with a much wider understanding of the benefits of enterprise and entrepreneurship education to learners beyond business and management schools, alongside a growing need for students to demonstrate the ability to work through and beyond disciplines, bringing new ideas to the table and less 'task' orientated 'skills'.

This guide is a timely addition to help support educators, practitioners and stakeholders, providing a practical resource, to connect the journey of the learner to the role of the educator in facilitating the education experience and enhancing student success.  

Essential frameworks for enhancing student success: Enterprise and Entrepreneurship – A guide to the Advance HE Framework for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education is available to Advance HE members

Leigh Sear is currently Chief Executive of SFEDI Solutions.  Leigh has extensive experience of working in higher education and developing, delivering and evaluating programmes of enterprise and entrepreneurship education both within the UK and internationally

Stuart Norton  has worked in Academia since 2003 and joined Advance HE in 2016. Stuart has supported a range of institutions, discipline communities and individual academic and professional services staff. His role transitions across the core thematic areas of student success, where he takes a keen role in supporting sector-wide learning and teaching policy. Follow him on Twitter: @S_J_Norton

[1] identified by those who have graduated in the last five years


Institute of Student Employers (2021) Graduate Recruitment Bounces Back. Accessible via;

Institute of Student Employers in conjunction with the International Network of Employers and University Careers Service (2020)

Norton, S and Dalrymple, R (2020) Enhancing Graduate Employability: a case study compendium. York: Advance HE.

Norton, S and Dalrymple, R (2021) Employability: Breaking the Mould. York: Advance HE.

ONS (2020) Office for National Statistics GDP monthly estimate, UK: December 2020 Accessible via;

ONS (2021) Office for National Statistics: Graduates’ labour market outcomes during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic: occupational switches and skill mismatch. Accessible via;  

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (2018). Enterprise and entrepreneurship education: Guidance for UK higher education providers.

World Bank (2021) ‘The Global Economy’; Accessible via;  


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