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EEUK responds to the Witty review of universities and growth

The UK Government has recently commissioned Sir Andrew Witty to lead a review to explore how universities can work with Local Enterprise Partnerships and other local organisations to support growth. Sir Andrew is CEO of GlaxoSmithKline and Chancellor of the University of Nottingham. He is also the lead non-executive director at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

A consultation is open until May 31st, details can be found here. The response from the Board of Enterprise Educators UK follows.

Dear Sir Andrew,

Enterprise Educators UK (EEUK) welcomes the Witty Independent Review of Universities and Growth as an opportunity to build capacity for innovation and enterprise at the local and regional level. EEUK represents staff developing enterprise, entrepreneurship, and innovation-based education in 98 UK HEIs and FEIs.

We acknowledge the vital role universities have to play in enabling both the research breakthroughs and the graduates and postgraduates within our institutions to enter the wider world and create value of all kinds, not least economic growth. 

UK universities are at the cutting edge of many industry-relevant fields of research and we produce thousands of new graduates each year that will either add value to existing organisations or create their own businesses, often in the vicinity of their university. Equipping these graduates with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to innovate, to be enterprising, and to add cutting-edge research knowledge to businesses is what enterprise education is all about.

We also recognise the role that universities can play in their local and regional environment whilst acknowledging that almost all universities have national and international activities and aspirations. Very few organisations operate at so many levels simultaneously and it gives universities key roles in connecting local enterprise with a global marketplace.

Enterprise Education has a major role to play in this agenda. Enterprise Education is focused on the development of impact - be that research impact, social innovation, or just the personal impact our graduates can bring to bear through employment.

Enterprise Education:

  • Supports students and graduates starting their own businesses, by providing know-how, professional skills, self-awareness, self-efficacy, and networks of support
  • Prepares graduates for a changing labour market where enterprising behaviour is not only valued but increasingly required
  • Equips postgraduates with the ability to translate their cutting-edge knowledge into firms who can use that to grow and gain access to new markets
  • Enables graduates to access the microbusiness and SME sector and add skills and knowledge to those businesses from their first day by having developed sufficient business acumen already through their university experience
  • Helps academic researchers to better understand how businesses operate and thus enables more ideas and technologies to successfully translate into products, services, and improvements
  • Builds a culture within universities that supports an enterprising, outward-facing, serendipitous, and opportunity-seeking attitude amongst both staff and students

For more information about the nature and role of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education we’d refer you to the Quality Assurance Agency’s ‘Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education: Guidance for UK higher education providers’ that EEUK chaired in 2012.

It is not a lack of funding that prevents most start-ups emerging or most micro-businesses and SMEs growing, it's a lack of confidence in knowing how to do it. By encouraging LEPs to support enterprise education in and through universities in their local areas you can build the networks of support, the educational programmes, and the advice communities that create entrepreneurial confidence. For more information on the barriers to youth enterprise we’d highlight both the 2013 ‘Disrupt Inc’ report from the RSA and the ‘Everyone’s Business’ report from Demos in 2012.

We should stress that Enterprise Education is not confined to Business Schools; many of the graduates a growing economy will need are to be found in STEM disciplines and far beyond. In the words of Lord Young of Graffham "no-tech" firms will be as important to economic growth as high-tech firms. Enterprise Educators are already working with life-sciences students on commercialisation and history students on cultural enterprise, we are supporting a generation to act on their ideas by providing the tools, connections, and inspiration to build and enhance businesses.

We would recommend to Sir Andrew that a significant proportion of money provided through the LEPs is used specifically to support Enterprise Education, and that that activity must not be limited to University Business Schools. That funding should be used by HEIs to create and develop specific initiatives that engage with the local and regional economy, such as:

  • Programmes of enterprise education that develop graduate skills specific to the key industries in their locality
  • Programmes of activity that assist researchers to translate technology and skilled postgraduates into key industries in their locality
  • Schemes to support Civic Entrepreneurship; engaging students and staff with solving problems in their local economies
  • Creating subsidies for getting students and graduates work experience in key local SMEs and Enterprises where growth is targeted and university connectivity could add value
  • Creating opportunities for placements within the taught curriculum that promote student and university engagement in local business.
  • Encouraging Business Schools and other faculties where appropriate to develop their support for and engagement in scaling local SMEs into larger firms and encouraging exports via an existing base of international students studying at UK Business Schools
  • Building on existing practices where university students support school and college students in a variety of subjects to specifically include enterprise mentoring and tutoring. This would enable professional skills and enterprise awareness to enter the curriculum at an earlier stage
  • Managing large structural funding opportunities through the LEPs to help universities acquire and manage funds for enterprise initiatives

Enterprise Educators UK has for a number of years celebrated and shared the best practice in enterprise education nationally and internationally – through Award schemes, through funding research, and through building an international network and reputation in this field. We would welcome the opportunity to work with the LEPs to support the development of best-practice in this field.

We’re holding our annual best-practice conference for Enterprise Educators, the International Entrepreneurship Educators Conference, co-organised with the National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education, this September in Sheffield. This would be an ideal forum for you to look at national best practice in this sector and engage practitioners in some of your themes.

EEUK would welcome the opportunity to contribute further to this review so do please contact us if we can support the process in any way.

Dave Jarman

Chairman, Enterprise Educators UK

Head of Enterprise Education, The University of Bristol

 

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