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Record levels of entrepreneurship in English universities

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According to a report by the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship (NCGE), which surveyed 126 institutions representing 1.8 million students, English universities have become more enterprising. The student engagement rate in enterprise and entrepreneurship has risen by nearly 50 per cent since 2007, and the level of startups has increased to an average of 28 per university.

The rise is positive. Universities are a great place to breed businesses – just look at Mike Lynch’s Autonomy and Sir Robin Saxby’s ARM Holdings. But can we keep it up?

Ian Robertson, CEO of NCGE, sounds a warning: “There clearly remains a high dependency on public funding and, with Regional Development Agency funds unlikely to be available, universities will need to seek entrepreneurial solutions to resourcing future provision if growth is to be maintained.”

Next month’s vote on university fees will also have an impact on the next-generation of entrepreneurs and the number of spin-outs being formed. The vote will decide on whether to allow English universities to charge £6,000, almost double the current £3,290 cap, and up to £9,000 under certain conditions – something that has prompted angry protests by students.

Research by the million+ and London Economics think tanks, published on Tuesday, suggests 60 per cent of students will be worse off under the plans by an average of £5,000.

Real Business is going to be watching which way Vince Cable votes – if he votes at all. The business secretary has come under fire for saying he may abstain. SNP home affairs spokesman Pete Wishart has said: “His debut on Come Dancing is not till Christmas, but Vince Cable is doing the twist already over tuition fees. As minister with responsibility for universities it is just not tenable for him to abstain in a vote on tuition fees.”

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