What makes a good entrepreneurship educator?

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


    With National governments being encouraged to step-up their efforts to increases levels of creativity and innovation across Europe through intertwining entrepreneurship and education (EC, 2014), this paper explore the concept of the entrepreneurship educator. Henry (2013) argues that the questions concerning ‘why’ and ‘if we can’ teach entrepreneurship have been addressed (Clark et al, 1984; Gibb, 2000, Vesper, 1982), whilst the notion and role of the entrepreneurship educator is in itself still wide open to challenge, both within and without the discipline. The question of who should teach what, how and to whom still looms large (Jones et al, 2014, Hall, 2011; Metcalf, 2010; Mars and Slaughter, 2008). Despite this the World Economic Forum (WEF) argues that, “Entrepreneurship education is essential for developing the human capital necessary for the society of the future. It is not enough to add entrepreneurship on the perimeter – it needs to be core to the way education operates” (2009: 9). This approach not only assumes that it can be taught, but also begins to prescribe how and when, “Educational institutions, at all levels (primary, secondary and higher education) need to adopt 21st century methods and tools to develop the appropriate learning environment for encouraging creativity, innovation and the ability to “think out of the box” to solve problems” (ibid). Bringing about this transformation “… requires a fundamental rethinking of educational systems, both formal and informal, as well as the way in which teachers or educators are trained, how examination systems function and the way in which rewards are given” (ibid). This quote is typical of the approach to both enterprise and entrepreneurship education; highly prescriptive on the ‘what’ and the intended outcomes, but light on detail with respect to the ‘who’ or the ‘how’. Arguing that a fundamental rethink is required to the way in which teachers are trained throws out a call to action that in reality few would be able to answer. This has been acknowledged in the recently published (2014) report by the Thematic Working Group on Entrepreneurship Education, which both calls for all EU member states to embed entrepreneurship in all curricular and also recognises the paucity of provision to support the development of entrepreneurship educators. It is presupposed that we know a) what makes a good entrepreneurship educator, b) that we are able to teach those skills to a majority of educators and c) that the mechanisms and structures are in place to do so. This paper aims to address the structural issues with respect to the provision of entrepreneurship education and these issues and in doing so to shine a light on what makes good entrepreneurship educators and how we might go about training them.

    Current Research

    “Governmental departments in many countries are convinced that it is possible to motivate students at tertiary institutions of education to become entrepreneurs and to start their own businesses” (Weber, 2011: 1). But a key consideration is where this motivation will come from. The WEF argues that it must come from educational institutions and at all the levels stated above. Institutionalising entrepreneurship within the education system is seen as a vital part of the economic future (EC, 2014; Young, 2014). This approach is directed pan-institutionally. It is expected that teachers will become revenue generators and entrepreneurial academics in their own right (Patzelt and Shepherd, 2009) and through them that entrepreneurship will be embedded within the curriculum so that the students are inculcated with the values, attributes and characteristics of the entrepreneurial mindset. Ideally this should happen progressively throughout the whole education process. What this call to action illustrates is that if realised, it would require an army of effective entrepreneurship educators to meet the need created. Where will these entrepreneurship educators come from? One the one hand it is argued that all educators should be ‘trained’ in the arts of entrepreneurship so that they can effectively motivate their students to become entrepreneurs (or entrepreneurs in waiting). On the other hand, entrepreneurship education is seen by others (practitioners especially) as a ‘calling’, a “unique scholarship of teaching” (Jones, et al, 2014: 764) which must not be diluted by a business school mentality which aims “to control the design, development, delivery and assessment of enterprise and entrepreneurship education programmes” (Matlay, 2005). From the perspective of the latter, enterprise and entrepreneurship educators ‘swim against the tide’ (Jones et al, 2014: 765); they do not always respect established educational practice and as a consequence of this do not always have the power to influence institutional strategy. Many operate outside the Faculty infrastructure; they are based in specialist centres, with limited resources. Also, despite being policy ‘flavour of the month’, many enterprise and entrepreneurship educators encounter resistance to their teaching philosophy and approaches. One argument is that as a discipline, entrepreneurship is ‘still claiming its autonomy’ (ibid). Also, participation in the agenda tends to “be either substantive or symbolic” (Bercovitz and Feldman, 2008: 69) and this may be the differentiator between those who really embrace the subject, those who pay lip service to it and those who dismiss it entirely. From an entrepreneurship educator perspective, the orientation of the educator is fundamental to his or her success (Jones et al, 2014). It is argued that part of process of gaining legitimacy for the approach to entrepreneurship education is to have a unified theory or a ‘scholarship of practice’ (Jones, et al: 766). This would inform the teaching of entrepreneurship educators in a systematic and consistent way, by starting to define the discipline as an educational domain in its own right (ibid: 773) Given the policy imperative, the drive towards entrepreneurship education is such that it will impact on all staff either through institutional pressure from above or student pressure from below. The approach adopted must therefore be robust and flexible enough to deal with those who have ‘a calling’ for the discipline and those who do not.


    This paper aims to build upon current literature, research, policy and informed practice within the field of entrepreneurship education. The latter is based on the author having worked in enterprise and entrepreneurship education for 13 year, which she aims to bring to bear on the review of current theory and practice and on the future of the discipline. Building on the International Enterprise Education Programme, the first full Masters in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education has just been approved under her stewardship. She led on the delivery of a European project that evaluated approaches to enterprise and entrepreneurship education, leadership and governance across a network of six European entrepreneurial universities and is currently working with seven universities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. She is involved in projects supporting the development of entrepreneurial curricula in China and Africa. She has worked with a number of enterprise educators from the HE and FE sector.

    Policy makers, in particular within the EU, have made enterprise education a priority area. This is evidenced through the number of projects and reports which explore enterprise and entrepreneurship education from every angle, but which specifically target academic governance and academic staff in the belief that if the institutional culture is ‘right’ it will fosters the development of entrepreneurial values that will be transmitted through curriculum development to students. Research suggests that this may not be so. The focus is on the creation of policy and governance frameworks to drive the initiative through. The guidance on how this will translate into developing staff with the right skillset is less formulated. It appears that the rhetoric outweighs the reality of what entrepreneurship (and enterprise) educators might be expected to deliver. Research is heavily skewed towards defining entrepreneurship and what an entrepreneurial graduate might look like, but very little emphasis is placed on educators whose role it is implement the policy outlined above. This research aims to address this imbalance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2017
    EventInstitute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship 2017: ‘Borders’, prosperity and entrepreneurial responses - Ireland, Belfast, United Kingdom
    Duration: 8 Nov 20179 Nov 2017
    Conference number: 40


    ConferenceInstitute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship 2017
    Abbreviated titleISBE 2017
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address


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