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Advancing academic practice through ABC themes for enterprising education and business engagement

13 Mar 2024 | Yaw Afari and Dr Robert Crammond The continued embedding of enterprise within universities relies on timely education and aligning with good practice frameworks. Dr Yaw Afari and Dr Robert Crammond, from the University of the West of Scotland, highlight distinct ABC themes for advancing enterprising education.

Future graduates, and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) totalling around 5.6 million in the UK (2023), are the backbone of the economy. Much like universities, businesses are a source of ideas, progress, and productivity. However, in today’s climate, they are vulnerable, work with finite, stretched, or costly resources, and constantly react to change and volatility. As desired from timely and Enterprising Education (EE), being creative and innovative can help overcome these issues.  

In recent years, the role of the university has been instrumental in responding to, and supporting, institutions and local business. Within the UK's ever-evolving higher education landscape, universities are incorporating entrepreneurial elements into their curricula and launching innovative programs that provide practical experiences to students. Partnerships between universities and industry subsequently achieve outstanding results, for many.  

Capacity for Creativity 

Universities have unique opportunities to develop collaborative relationships with business. Educational frameworks, and all universities in some form, have acknowledged the vital role of creative EE in unlocking opportunities for businesses, enabling them to thrive and contribute meaningfully to communities.  

Pragmatic forms of education, and encouraged guidance towards enterprise and employability such as from Advance HE, promote this. This benefits students, staff, and industry by providing valuable academic support, enriching the university's academic offerings and research initiatives. 

Advancing EE Practice: ABC Themes 

Moving forward, recent research outlines distinct ABC themes when considering how universities offer EE and engage with students, alumni, and business. 


Aspiring entrepreneurs, including students, possess distinct motivational attributes. These range from creativity to problem solving, to risk awareness and assessment. EE test and develop these, and confronting these should be at the forefront of course or programme design and delivery.  

Whilst the benefits of EE or university-based business incubation are substantial, the journey to establish and manage these require skill and experience. It demands a considerable investment of human and cultural capital. Additionally, building a diverse network of mentors, industry connections, and support systems is crucial for providing students with a sound foundation for their entrepreneurial endeavours. 

The intended transformative impact of EE extends beyond the classroom. Students who undergo such experiences gain invaluable insights, develop problem-solving skills, and foster an entrepreneurial mindset. This evidences efforts by the university to align with good practice and produce effective teaching which responds to industry demand. 


Advancing EE courses of today appreciate the ambitions of students, whether they have new business goals or wish to develop interpersonal and enterprising skills. This is heightened by the behaviours and activities of institutions. Behaviours can be witnessed through distinct personalities within the enterprise network. By becoming more responsive to industry needs, universities can align higher education goals with the dynamic requirements of SMEs and regions. This fosters a forward-thinking educational ecosystem.  

Integrating practical entrepreneurial elements into academic practices reflects a comprehensive and engaging approach to providing EE, triggering entrepreneurial intentions of students. In practice, this can be leveraged by tools, techniques, and technologies as universities bridge the gap between traditional academic delivery and acknowledging the necessary practicalities of entrepreneurship.  


Situations, case studies, and scenarios – they are important to EE. Reflecting on, and learning from these, coupled with the responsibility to align to good practice objectives, leads to pragmatic and notable educational experiences for students and staff alike. 

In business incubators, for example, the transfer of entrepreneurial wisdom plays a vital role in displaying context – opportunities, hopes, and fears. However, as stressed, establishing and running these programmes takes time, technique, and teamwork.  

We believe it's really important that universities continue to recognise the importance of addressing educational and business contexts together, in shaping entrepreneurial journeys. In the context of universities in the UK, meeting the needs of society, in general, requires a holistic approach that puts people at the centre. By adopting a people-centric approach, and integrating the outlined techniques and principles into their strategies, universities can meet the immediate needs of business and contribute to an entrepreneurial ecosystem's long-term growth and success. 

Universities now have a great opportunity to focus on delivering success by utilising practical techniques, planning optimised solutions, overcoming common obstacles, and ensuring sustained improvement. 

Leading good practice 

In leading the way through enterprise, universities must adopt straightforward techniques which include combining EE methods and stakeholder engagement. Identifying the root causes of challenges or problems enables the creation of targeted and productive solutions. By understanding student or business needs and ambitions, universities can tailor their offerings to create impactful EE and long-lasting collaborations.  

Universities must address the everyday situations that impede progress and promote a culture of proactivity and initiative. By anticipating and mitigating potential risks, institutions can set the stage for long-term success in their collaborations. 

Aligning these strategies with Advance HE frameworks, and others, enhances the credibility and impact of universities. Prioritising people-centric approaches, promoting continuous improvement, and fostering a culture of innovation all resonate with the fundamental principles of Advance HE. This reinforces the commitment to excellence in higher education. 

In the ever-changing landscape of universities and entrepreneurship in the UK, overcoming challenges requires a strategic approach that combines these measures and appreciates these ABC themes.  

By embracing these and diverse perspectives, universities can contribute meaningfully to the growth and enriching of advanced entrepreneurial learning. 

  • In your experience, what are the challenges that universities face when establishing and running enterprise programs?  
  • What kind of support do students require, to develop crucial attributes which would assist in navigating business challenges?  
  • With this support in mind, how can these be fed back to educators, in shaping appropriate and timely education? 

Yaw Afari is an Associate Lecturer in Business and Enterprise at the University of the West of Scotland (UWS). 

Robert James Crammond is a Senior Lecturer in Enterprise at the University of the West of Scotland (UWS). 

Explore the newly revised framework, 'Embedding Employability in Higher Education', part of Advance HE's 'Essential Frameworks for Enhancing Student Success' series. 
Join Advance HE's Employability Symposium 2024: Distilling The 3Es: ‘What works – and what doesn’t’ 
This event on 25 April will provide a space to discuss and share latest practices in embedding employability among a network of peers. Find out more.

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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