The entrepreneurial university: processes and principles


Article by Robert Crammond, Senior Lecturer in Enterprise, University of the West of Scotland.


Keywords: Enterprise, entrepreneurship, higher education, sustainable development goals, entrepreneurial culture, teamwork.


Introduction


Over the past 10 years in academia, where I have been involved in module, programme, or research activity concerning enterprise and entrepreneurship, I have appreciated the importance of practical and purposive processes or networks towards skills development and, whether it be individual or company-based, entrepreneurial outcomes. 


These processes or networks involve implementing logical class or non-class based approaches, activities, and initiatives which heighten meaningful engagement and build enterprising legacies for students and staff alike. However, (1) what processes and principles for meaningful engagement can be prescribed? Also, (2) who is, or should be, involved? 


In this article, I reflect on my own experiences, the current work of my own institution (the University of the West of Scotland) and refer to my research of entrepreneurship and higher education.


Entrepreneurial Cultures & the University. What Does It Mean?


Of course, in responding to regional need, the national interest, or globally-shared goals including for example the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), universities must be seen to emphasise entrepreneurialism, innovation, and more importantly practically evidence these opportunities for both their students and staff (Crammond, 2020; 2022). This can range from programmatic modules, to stand-alone short courses, practical workshops, guest speaker events, and competitions (Murray et al., 2018; Murray and Crammond, 2020).


The breadth and variety of offerings expose more individuals and groups to enterprise, which in turn raises entrepreneurial intentions (Murray and Crammond, 2020) and supports people at all stages of their own personal, professional, or business development. Added to this the specific experience of entrepreneurship from recruited academics, embedding digital and mobile platforms and means of communication, engaging with local business, aligning with institutional goals, and the intervention of industry expertise results in a pro-active entrepreneurial culture (Crammond et al., 2022). 


An entrepreneurial culture comprises of norms, activities, beliefs, and influential people within a given environment, such as a university or organisation, who promote and maintain entrepreneurship through knowledge dissemination and acquisition, vocational or professional training, and business start-up and development.


In becoming entrepreneurial, universities must position themselves through resource and reason as being capable and ready to respond to inevitable change and volatilities which they will confront. It is a workable strategy, agreed to by all within the university, which binds structural, intellectual, and cultural aspects together, along with pedagogical considerations such as delivery, content, and support (Murray et al., 2018; Crammond, 2020; 2022). 


Entrepreneurship, business activity, and the actions of all stakeholders are both time and people sensitive (Crammond, 2019a). An entrepreneurial ecosystem faces realistic problems and business realities, which stem from given institutions within that ecosystem. 

Universities, small business, local government, multi-national organisations residing in the region, banks and investors, and charities to name a few must deal with existing infrastructure, funding and investment opportunities, varying levels of education, and institutional and governmental support (Crammond 2019b). 


In response, universities play a pivotal role in assisting small business, through management schemes, detailed knowledge transfer projects, and ongoing research, in helping them overcome economic problems and industry-relevant challenges.


Picture Credit: Pixabay


Rules Of Engagement: Asserting Entrepreneurial Processes and Principles


So, what processes does this article prescribe? Generally speaking, universities embed enterprise in a number of ways:


  • By subject-specific traditional (short) course or programme
  • By skills-focussed, or business creation-based assessment (formative and summative)
  • University-wide activities, and business incubation (start-up or spin-out)
  • Interdisciplinary sessions and workshops (cross-departmental)
  • Knowledge transfer projects, guest speaker & discussion events (external engagement)
  • Competitions & funding opportunities


My new book (Crammond, 2022) presents two unique offerings to the benefit of entrepreneurial institutions, to embed all of the above. Firstly, a University Model for Entrepreneurship (UM4E) comprising of four elements. The four elements are:


  1. Method (university approach and offering)
  2. Motive (purpose and intentions)
  3. Message (institutional narrative and focus), and
  4. Medium (regional links and national partnerships) (Crammond, 2022)


This model promotes a transitional or transformational process, inclusivity of people and ideas, the need to be responsive in a timely manner, and a sharing and pooling of resources for enterprise. 


Enterprise (skills-based) or entrepreneurship (venture-based) requires a particular pedagogical and wider, institutional approach. This is evidenced by its more vibrant forms of delivery and assessment, compared with traditional subject areas at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Therefore, method, a ‘screening’ of the institution (Crammond, 2019a; 2020), considering the strengths of the university and deciding on what direction it takes, is displayed by the method(s) adopted.


Following on from this, the motive or intent of the university course or initiative must be clear and transparent. Enterprising activities from a university have institutional, cultural, and regional implications. It can lead to greater communication and opportunity with external organisations, at local and national levels.


One element of ongoing importance, within this model, is that of asserting an appropriate message. What stories can be told? How does the university engage with other organisations, and communities, in achieving shared goals? Having the determination to focus on the societal interest, and ascertain where the university can positively contribute leads to reasonable and aligned processes and principles.


Finally, a shared message, a medium which develops trust and commitment, allows for the university to create links and partnerships where duties and responsibilities are both understood and executed.


With these in mind, secondly, the book also lists pedagogical principles (following on from my stakeholder principles for entrepreneurship education SEPEE, 2019a) specifically towards the classroom:


  1. State a definitive message, and create a clear pathway for enterprise
  2. Identify roles, grow an enterprising team and consider what is good practice for the subject
  3. Centralise, and normalise interdisciplinary business in practice through entrepreneurial skills
  4. Promote inclusivity and acknowledge industry with relevant assessment
  5. Engage the external stakeholder and pose the question: so what next? (Crammond, 2019a; 2022)


One single person within a university, whether it be an academic or educational support individual, cannot do all of the work. Significantly, in transforming the university (Crammond et al., 2022), these principles rely on an enterprising team or project which spans an academic year and involves many within the environment and beyond.


In my prior research, I have highlighted that four key elements must exist when establishing and engaging relevant stakeholders, within an entrepreneurial context.  These include setting, approach, rhetoric, and engagement (Crammond, 2019b) and aligns somewhat with the aforementioned UM4E. A balance, therefore, of quality and quantity concerning stakeholder experience and enterprising skills sets is required.


Key ‘entrepreneurial stakeholders’ within the university, include the:


  • Educator (Practical)
  • Philosopher (Theoretical)
  • Manager (Logistical) 
  • Business Advisor (Interpersonal, Networker) 
  • Student Support (Developmental)
  • Knowledge Transfer & Spin-Out (Applicable)


As I have said, it takes more than one person to realise an entrepreneurial institution. It takes a team. This concept of a team-based approach within university, has been something that I have commented on recently. The bringing together of key individuals widens the reach of enterprise to all corners of the university.


Also, key to consider here is the ongoing continuing professional development of enterprise educators and those who aim to improving entrepreneurial outcomes from students and staff. Enterprise promotes personal and professional development, as well as its typical socio-economic connotation. In a recent blog article, I discuss how developing individuals and groups to work smarter and facilitate mentoring and coaching, which centralises enterprise as a ‘team sport’ reliant on all corners of a university and members of society, is vital.


Towards Meaningful Engagement: What does UWS do?


At UWS, we offer a specific suite of enterprise modules (undergraduate to postgraduate), an on campus and online enterprise and business incubator, a student-led business society, skills development and business development workshops, thematic discussion-based events, and competitions with cash prizes and business funding opportunities up for grabs!


So, in practice… universities must create and build on an agenda which utilises key resources and inspires all within its walls (Crammond, 2020) and makes a societal difference. 


The agenda should be mobile and durable, being cognisant of external forces which impact the higher education sector. At UWS, the new enterprise team, and its ongoing work has been successful due to a number of reasons:


  1. Firstly, the team is diverse. Diversity is a key entrepreneurial strength, which provides different experiences, many understandings of a variety of contexts, and an appreciation of many lifestyles and circumstances.
  2. Secondly, there is a systematic approach. This involves courses but periodic activities and opportunities, including competitions and workshops, which intervene at key moments in the academic calendar.
  3. Thirdly, as I said, the team intervene, and both network and prescribe enterprising solutions in the classroom through new contacts surrounding the university, and endorse year-round enterprising activity after formal classes have ended. These are in the form of incubator and accelerator programmes for students and staff.


Universities who aspire to be true entrepreneurial institutions, led by influential champions, should consider the processes and principles detailed within this article.


References


Crammond, R. (2019a) 'Progressing Enterprising Education within Universities: Asserting Principles of Stakeholder Engagement'. Journal of Higher Education Service Science and Management (JoHESSM). Vol. 2 Issue 2, pp. 1 - 10, https://joherd.com/journals/index.php/JoHESSM/article/view/30/22 


Crammond, R. (2019b) 'The Normalisation of Enterprising Education: Transatlantic Reflections between distinct Institutions'. Journal of Higher Education Service Science and Management (JoHESSM). Vol. 2, Issue 3, https://joherd.com/journals/index.php/JoHESSM/article/view/35 


Crammond, R. J. (2020) Advancing Entrepreneurship Education in Universities: Concepts and Practices for Teaching and Support. Springer Nature.


Crammond, R. J. (Upcoming, 2022) Entrepreneurship & Universities: Pedagogical Perspectives & Philosophies. Springer Nature.


Crammond, R. J., Scuotto, V., Omeihe, K. & Murray, A. (2022) Reframing university-level entrepreneurship education through digitisation and transformational technologies: an institutional case study. In Understanding Entrepreneurship: A Catalyst for Change Perspective. Palgrave Macmillan UK, London, pp. 103-128. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-07139-3_5 


Murray, A. and Crammond, R. (2020) 'Witnessing Entrepreneurial Perceptions and Proclivity in University Students: Developing a Process Model'. Education + Training. Vol. 62 No. 4, pp. 459-481, https://doi.org/10.1108/ET-03-2019-0052.


Murray, A., Crammond, R., Omeihe, K.O. and Scuotto, V. (2018) 'Establishing successful methods of entrepreneurship education in nurturing new entrepreneurs'. Journal of Higher Education Service Science and Management (JoHESSM). Vol. 1 Issue 1, pp. 1 – 11, https://joherd.com/journals/index.php/JoHESSM/article/view/5/2