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Enterprising thinking on the future of HE

19 Nov 2019 | Andy Penaluna Andy Penaluna is Professor Emeritus at University of Wales Trinity Saint David. He has been contributing to Advance HE’s work on Enterprise, Entrepreneurship and Employability for over 12 years and has a few insights to share.

Over the past few years the topic of future proofing higher education has had much to do with graduate success and what we can offer them, which we are often reminded will be determined within unpredictably complex and ever-changing scenarios. I firmly believe that enterprise education has a significant role to play, so the new Advance HE Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education Framework deserves a few more thoughts on the topic. What’s behind it and why is it so important?

Seeing beyond the obvious – the enterprising employee

After five years of use, the QAA Guidance on Enterprise and Entrepreneurship was refreshed in 2018 to reflect the views of those who had been using it. Working collaboratively with Advance HE we took a deeper look at what an entrepreneurial employee might look like and cast our thinking nets out to the type of graduate that would be employable in a micro or small business where entrepreneurialism would need support. Having read the recent report from Charlie Ball at Prospects, it is clear that this is an area that needs further attention, if only because entrepreneurial forms of education tend to be seen as a response to the need for more entrepreneurs, but not the people who might be able to work with them and support them. In my view, this has to change, but there are a few barriers to consider.

Research and Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education

In terms of educational research, in my experience a lot of UK business researchers tend to look to the US for insights. However, as leading thinkers Heidi Neck and Andrew Corbett from Babson College point out when setting the scene for a new journal for the development of more scholarly thinking, they consider that Entrepreneurship Education is about entrepreneurs, and that new venture creation must be the context. They even suggest that taking it outside of the business education domain may be ’misguided’. Perhaps interestingly, they also suggest that the majority of entrepreneurship educators in the US are not trained educators, which in turn indicates that any educational argument within this type of research is going to be based on limited insights, especially when compared to the UK goals and approaches.

Keep education at the core?

So, if this type of research informs UK research, what do we need to do to illuminate this shortfall? Of course, as many readers will know, the QAA’s split definition of enterprise and entrepreneurship helps, and has been extremely well received by those who do the face to face teaching. It remains a central tenet of the new Framework, and with good reason. What is perhaps less well known is that the definitional split was supported by research that started the other way around from the US perspective.

As educators trained in education, my team and I examined all of the QAA’s Subject Benchmark Statement and drew out aspects that to us sounded entrepreneurial. I would suggest that, for example, work on creativity could be more advanced in art and design than in a business school, or that work on persuasion could be the domain of the performing arts, where ultimately actors and scenarios convince you that they are real, thus suspending prior beliefs. When it comes to decision-making in situations of ambiguity, risk and perhaps stress, medical education provides many insights, and working with incomplete evidence is common in anything remotely historical, even Greek and the Classics. The list goes on, and the business education has much to offer and add to the mix, but my point is that the UK way of doing things has started with best educational practice, not responded to the demands for business start-ups.

I recently saw a series of presentations that focussed entirely on the enterprise aspects of creativity, innovation, flexibility and adaptability, the competencies that underpin entrepreneurship and potentially at least, could enhance provision that is well matched to the needs of microbusinesses and entrepreneurs who wish to employ kindred spirits. I was rather impressed, and not a mention of business start-up. The EntreComp competencies can really help to draw these out, and now features as a central evaluative aspect of teacher training and research degrees in Wales.

Taking a view

So, what do the people who are really enterprising think about all of this? ‘Too few get access to Enterprise Education’ is the view of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Entrepreneurship, who also say that the government should ensure it doesn’t incentivise start-ups and entrepreneurship to the detriment of broader enterprise education approaches. They also openly applaud the QAA’s work saying that it punches above its weight and cite the very successful ICURe ‘PhD to Entrepreneur’ team’s view that its introduction was a seminal moment in UK higher education. It is no surprise to find that the SFEDI and IOEE concur - likewise EEUK and ISBE, all of who have helped to develop this new work in partnership with Advance HE.

What next? What can I do?

So, what can we learn from this? Well, once you’ve looked at the Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education Framework, perhaps you could revisit your own best practices in more detail? Draw out the great educational approaches that help us on our journey, ones that ensure our graduates have a great future, then share them with others such as EEUK and/or ISBE.

Way back in 2009 the former chair of the then Higher Education Academy, Paul Ramsden, thought that any successes in innovative education of the future would come from interdisciplinarity, and research into successful businesses confirm this. So, when did you last look into learning teaching and assessment strategies that are beyond your department’s walls? What could be different, and what could you learn? To my mind, these are the first steps to becoming an entrepreneurial educator and the Framework is an ideal mechanism for supporting this.


Andy Penaluna has contributed to over 50 countries’ initiatives in entrepreneurial education. His clients include the UN, EU Joint Research centre and the OECD. He helped to develop the EntreComp Framework and is the Chair of QAA’s Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Group and also helped to write the new Quality Code.


APPG for Entrepreneurship (2018) Enterprise Education, Westminster: APPG Entrepreneurship

Neck, H and Corbett, A (2018) The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy, Vol 1. Pp


Find out more about the Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education Framework, which is aligned to the Employability Framework, part of the Advance HE Student Success Frameworks.


We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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