The pandemic saw the on-campus delivery of university modules and programmes come to a halt in 2020. However, amidst this, the School of Business and Creative Industries at the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) has seen productive change in several ways. One example is evident with the formation and growth of the school’s Enterprise Team, which has a sharp focus on both embedding and enhancing enterprise and entrepreneurship education through teaching and support to our 500+ students who enrol onto enterprise modules annually.
Within this blog, I highlight a ‘team-based’ approach that has since resulted in the ring-fencing of enterprise modules across all undergraduate and postgraduate levels, us establishing our on-campus and online business incubator, a new student-led business society, a discussion series inviting entrepreneurs as speakers, and the promotion of the University-wide annual competition for new business ideas. These initiatives put into practice some of the relevant skills and duties as desired within the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF), such as course design, reflecting on appropriate teaching methods, and promoting participation as referred to by Advance HE.
A team-based approach
The Enterprise Team consists of a number of academics and business professionals with different stories to tell and many things to ‘bring to the table’. This includes current or former programme leaders of business and management disciplines, those with business adviser or development experience, and others coming from entrepreneurial backgrounds spanning decades. I believe this coming together of individuals with understandings of both educational and industry contexts is vital towards the strength of an academic team for enterprise and entrepreneurship. This point of a multi-stakeholder appreciation for enterprise is stressed in my own research, including my latest book, where enterprise and entrepreneurship requires this industry intervention and exposure to entrepreneurialism in action, in order for students to succeed!
A number of significant roles or responsibilities are outlined within this team, ranging from module development and research output, to student support and external engagement. Again, we wish to represent various aspects of the student experience for enterprise, in attempts to boost entrepreneurial intentions along the learner journey. For example, our I3 logo pictured below brands our business support service, where we value the importance of incubation, enabling innovation, and inspiring students, staff and alumni.
Specifically, within my role, I have revised and developed our enterprise offering for students and staff. This has included tailoring our student engagement and support offerings, through start-of-term inductions to business advice drop-ins.
Promoting enterprise & entrepreneurship
In extending beyond simply developing management and leadership skills, to evidencing entrepreneurial traits and attributes such as idea generation, creativity, problem solving, and innovation, the Enterprise Team have grouped a suite of modules that span from the first year of undergraduate studies, to postgraduate. These include:
- Entrepreneurial Opportunity defining entrepreneurship and focusing on environmental scanning and market awareness;
- Business Accelerator which reflects the business incubation and accelerator process through development of a business model for a potentially-new venture;
- Enterprise Creation a group-based class where students submit and defend a business plan and reflect on the module experience;
- Enterprise with Creative Media where students develop an understanding of market, digital and social trends from both conceptual and strategic perspectives.
All but one of these modules commence from our Term 2 (January), and all run for 12 weeks. As highlighted in recent reporting, initiatives and models, such as the EntreComp framework or EEUK Toolkit, key skills and attributes associated with enterprise and entrepreneurship are now increasingly embedded in our modules via pragmatic, competency-based methods of formative and summative assessment. These modules result in a definitive ‘enterprise stream’ for UWS, as the Enterprise Team assist in enterprising legacies being built.
Term 2 sees most of the Team’s enterprising activity come to the fore, as along with module engagement, we deliver and support workshops for the annual ‘Kick Start’ competition.
These workshops involve practical exercises and discussion concerning idea generation, creativity and innovation and business modelling phases of an enterprising idea or potential business.
In short, the team and wider university departments have successfully aligned module learning and extra-curricular, external engagement activities to encourage this greater entrepreneurial activity and intention throughout the academic session.
Progress & success
Feedback from these modules, and support and competition activities, have been extremely positive, with interest in these growing.
During the summer of 2020, I established the Business Society with our university student union, a student-led society with values of responsibility, capability and creativity. Colleagues within the team have also been developing the introduction of a series of speaker sessions, where entrepreneurs and business professionals are invited to present to and chat with students, staff and alumni.
Along with members of the Enterprise Team, I highlighted these examples along with documenting past business school successes, towards the school achieving the Small Business Charter award in 2021.
We have seen students and recent graduates tell of their business successes, with some starting their own ventures or continuing their journey with the University in consultancy projects as knowledge transfer associates or research students. The team has created a firm enterprise presence within the University, and a support mechanism for students and their ambitions.
With this team-based approach in mind, a number of considerations concerning advancing enterprising activity emerge. Firstly, the team value the importance of a diverse academic team, in background and experience. Secondly, with our ring-fencing of enterprise modules, we closely consider the nature of course content and assessment that students encounter each year. Thirdly, we acknowledge the need to create this enterprising intervention of support and networking. Fourthly, we centralise the enterprise message with assistance from the wider University and engage with community stakeholders. Finally, we stress the need for students to realise the societal value of their enterprising activity, removing any simple ‘capitalistic connotation’ of entrepreneurship.
So which particular activities do you, or should you, encourage to boost an enterprising university environment? What recent changes or aspects of good practice have you witnessed within your team, department or university?
Dr Robert James Crammond is a Senior Lecturer in Enterprise at the University of the West of Scotland. A Senior Fellow of Advance HE, Crammond is an enterprise educator, researcher, and leads research, supervision, and consultancy projects. He released his debut book on advancing entrepreneurship education within universities in 2020.
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