Entrepreneurship must be at the heart of higher education

Technology has rewritten the rulebook of commerce, with the potential for businesses to go from bedroom project to multi-billion dollar IPO in a handful of months. 

At the same time, the global financial crisis has sparked a wave of entrepreneurialism globally, and entrepreneurialism that doesn’t simply focus on financial return, but works smart to do good. Born in fire, many graduates had to create jobs in order to get jobs. They’ve had to be creative, realistic, responsible and determined.

And the concept of the “job” itself has changed irrevocably. Businesses and careerists alike hold little regard for the idea of a “job for life” today, with portfolio careers becoming the norm. Resultantly, today’s first-jobbers have little time to “learn the ropes” – firms expect to hire enterprising, savvy and emotionally intelligent graduates from day one on the job.

Where do universities fit into this?

Business acumen and commercial savvy have traditionally been the domain of the business school, within those universities lucky enough to have one. 

I think it’s fair to say that the pace of change in the commercial world hasn’t been matched by the curriculum in many of these institutions, with tired management theory looking increasingly out of touch with the tech-fuelled and creatively driven entrepreneurialism going on outside their doors. 

The gap between the theoretical and the practical has become a chasm in many cases, as MBA applications have fallen around the world.

Is there an out-dated snobbery towards entrepreneurs in our higher education system? These risk-takers are the school-of-life “Del Boys”, we’re surely more concerned with producing ladies and gentlemen for the society of big business, big government, the great arts institutions and the professional disciplines, right? Wrong.

Entrepreneurship at the heart of all courses

Entrepreneurship must be at the heart of every taught course in higher education, including in the arts. 

Universities need to address employability and self-sufficiency – not moving away from skills development or academic integrity – but recognising that without embedding entrepreneurship as a fundamental part of this, we might be setting up our graduates to fail.

From radical social change to cutting-edge research, universities have for centuries been hotbeds of innovation – melting pots of creative, bright and idealistic young people. With the right guidance and support, these should be the perfect conditions for enterprise.

One institution taking this seriously is the Guildhall School – find out how entrepreneurship is becoming a core part of the curriculum on page two.

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