Freelancing, is it a ‘real business’?

Written by Megan Powell Vreeswijk

I have had the privilege to work across the enterprise education and business support scene for over 13 years now, not only in HE but around the world with the British Council and NESTA.

Though one thing does not seem to have changed in all this time. I still hear the same terms from some of our colleagues about how we should be supporting ‘real businesses’!

This has (and still does) make my blood curdle. I know what they are ‘trying’ to say (they mean companies that can raise investment, employ people and make great case studies or impact stories) and supporting these businesses is something we do. But what they forget to acknowledge is that, in 2020, there was a whopping 2.2 million people in the UK working as Freelancers (with 44% being female).  This is basically HALF (49% actually, according to IPSE) of all solo self-employed people during that year (yes there were around 4.4 million solopreneurs recorded in 2020 according to the ONS).

And, these past couple of years have made many people sit up and take stock of life in the fast lane, waiting on furlough street or basically realising that there is more to the ‘Life/Work’ balance and are seizing the opportunity to make the change. Freelancing is a great route to do just that.

What does it take to be Freelancer?

We know that you need your own set of skills and a passion to deliver, but what many people forget is that like ALL business, you still need some basic enterprise acumen, a deal of patience, some wicked marketing tricks, a bit more patience, understanding of finance and even more patience.

Taking the leap from employment to self-employment, no matter the form you choose, is an almighty big step for anyone, so having the offer of support is vital for many new venturers to help them explore and succeed.

At NTU, we realised that we had a high number of Future Freelancers, when in lockdown we decided to work with Alison Grade (of the Freelance Bible) and offer a specialist programme just for those who are or who are seeking to become Freelancers. Now, this was not done because we felt they needed something different, but we were aware that they felt their business model did not always fit into the ‘normal’ business support offer. So, when we had over 370 people register for our online programme (pretty much all from Nottingham), we knew we had done the right thing.

Future Freelance support with NTU Enterprise

We are now offering this programme every year with additional benefit to those that attend and complete by getting them registered on the Freelancer Club platform with the brilliant Matt Dowling, which promotes jobs, collaborations and offers additional business support post programme.

IPSE believe that our Freelancers could be contributing as much as £162 Billion to the UK economy, which leads me to note that so many of our organisations and ‘real’ businesses rely on Freelancers to a; get them going at the start, b; step in and deliver on skills that are not within the organisation and c; make up quite a chunk of our education (circa 180,000 teaching and education professionals) and healthcare system (healthcare professionals as freelancers rose by 19% in 2020).

So, when we talk about supporting ‘real’ businesses, we need to remind our colleagues that without our Freelancers, we probably would not support quite as many or such good ‘real’ businesses!

Sources of Data and additional information/reading:

IPSE 2020 report


Don’t disappoint me:,employed%20workers%20in%20the%20Uk

All figures from IPSE report 2020

An Honoured Position

Written by Dave Bolton

So over the last week I have had a lot of time to reflect. From beginnings in entrepreneurship working alongside Welsh Government to help people start businesses, to my initial skirmish into the world of academia, I have certainly had some experiences along the track.

My initial engagement with EEUK was at an event run at Glyndwr University in Wrexham where I was welcomed with open arms. This was back in 2013 and I quickly came to realise that there was something just a little special about the organisation, but more importantly, the people in it. The same faces kept appearing all the time and everyone was more than willing to share support and advice. As my career has developed over the past 10 years, the support from my ‘enterprise family’ has been a constant. I have looked forward to engaging at events and, of course, the legendary IEEC conferences (my first being Newcastle in 2014)

In 2019, I was lucky enough to be elected by the members to join the board. Having that massive dose of ‘imposter syndrome’ quickly brought me back to earth but, through the support of the illustrious names on the board at the time (you all know who you are), I quickly settled in working on the Richard Beresford Bursary scheme initially and latterly becoming Finance Director in 2021.

I still can’t quite believe that I have been elected as President Elect, and I’m sure that there will be a great deal of ‘imposter syndrome’ yet to come as I think about the names of the people who have gone before me.

It is truly an honour to be working with, and supporting, Emily during her final year as President and also with Megan, the incoming Vice President and the rest of the Board and Executive. We have big plans for EEUK in the short to medium term, but rest assured that the membership body will always be our driving force moving this organisation to the next level.

I look forward to meeting you all soon at our events.

Dave Bolton
President Elect

Wave goodbye to the SEE

Written by Alison Price

Having dug deep to understand the impact of linking learner days, CPD and graduate starts in the first iteration of the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) EEUK can now report that the “SEE” perspective, where graduate starts data from HEBCI was reported, has now been amended and renamed.  In the second iteration of KEF this perspective is now the  “Continuing professional development (CPD) and graduate start-ups” perspective, amplifying the role of the business starts in this perspective and within the Framework. In addition, trade journals are now included within co-authorships and there have been changes in the ‘IP and commercialisation’ perspective which sees a new metric looking at average external investment for spin-outs for 3yrs+.

Wider changes can be seen in the presentation where it will now be quintiles, where quintile five will represent very high engagement.  There was also a commitment to continue the further development of metrics in this area – an approach that EEUK welcomes and to which it extends its support.

Across the nation states, work continues unchanged with the Knowledge Exchange Concordat as its action plan approach seeks to share learning across the sector.

The QAA (May 2022) launched its new Characteristics Statements on Micro credentials which are closely linked to Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree-Awarding Bodies, and can be used by higher education providers in the design and development of new provision and as a reference point when reviewing or revalidating existing provision.

Skills continue to dominate the policy discussion, with the OECD suggesting that many young people are learning for jobs that are disappearing while employers have difficulties finding the people with the skills they need.  The office for students shares the formative evaluation on the student knowledge exchange programme, and  in advance of IEEC, we read with interest the views on Welsh HE.  Jeremy Miles MP focuses on people and places, suggesting that a university education is transformative, broadens the mind, builds social and cultural capital, and nurtures skills and knowledge which help us succeed and work in life and in society. Want to hear more about the approach in Wales and unique success within EntEd? See you in 7-9 Sept at IEEC  – book now!

Alison Price
Head of Policy and Professional Development

Here we go gathering…   

Written by Alison Price

As it is already summer term, May 2022, it finally feels, here in the UK, that we are ‘gathering’ – gathering pace and momentum, gathering insights, and ultimately planning to gather together!

Gathering Together

EEUK has already held its first in-person event and is currently releasing details of keynote speakers for our annual conference (IEEC) in Swansea (7-9th Sept).  We are also gathering together for our in-person events but have listened to your feedback about keeping some activities online to bring members together.

Gathering momentum

In the most significant of all curriculum moves, the UK Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) has mainstreamed enterprise and entrepreneurship into 14 new subject benchmarks. This has been welcomed by enterprise educators working with academic subjects as the key to unlocking significant change.
Don’t forget the @ETCToolkit has subject-specific help, and we have recently launched the latest submissions from our EEUK fellows if you are looking for inspiration on pre-start up, innovation or creating a pitch club!

EEUK, having shared your views in the recent KEF consultation, continues its work on your behalf regarding the KEF Concordat which continues its work to December and beyond with a range of deep-dive webinars on: 1) Commercialisation, innovation and business 2) impact 3) Culture and Place 4) engagement 5) processes 6) funding and skills 7) capacity building and people 8) continuous improvement and 9) mission – as the KEF Concordat is an opportunity to engage UK-wide.

Gathering insights for action

OECD is sharing the work from its Entrepreneurship Education Collaboration and Engagement network (EECOLE) which highlights entrepreneurship as a mindset and recognises the importance of mainstreaming entrepreneurship education as a way to promote the Sustainable Development Goals bringing sustainability and inclusiveness dimensions into its work.  With a focus on “place-responsiveness” in higher education, as the capacity of HEIs to bend their research and teaching activities to reflect the needs of local actors, and improve sustainability and inclusion in their own communities, EEUK will keep sharing work to keep you up to date.

If you missed IPSE’s  The Self-Employment Landscape  (2021) this report charts the fall in self-employed work in the UK from 4.3 million to 4.1 million, noting that self-employed workers continue to contribute £303 billion to the UK economy.

Having heard, at the recent Handshake and Gradconsult conference, 2 key “call to action” facts from Dr Naeema Pash that:

  • “There are no black CEOs, CFOs or Chairs of FTSE 100 companies”
  • “Black women, over 45, within public sector are the group facing the most discrimination at work”

it is clear that Henley Business School’s report “the Equity Effect” is required reading, reminding us that “we thrive when we feel included”.

Alison Price
Head of Policy and Professional Development

Reflections on the new QAA subject-specific benchmark statements

Written by Professor Andy Penaluna

From EEUK Honorary Fellow, Professor Andy Penaluna

As QAA announces new subject-specific benchmark statements, with a key criterion being a comment on enterprise and entrepreneurship for that subject area, Andy reflects on how the conversation started and the new opportunities for Enterprise Educators.

As many EEUK friends know, back in the mid 2000’s, my ex-bank manager wife Kath persuaded me to join the enterprise and entrepreneurship education debate. She told me that what I did as a design educator and designer when creating value for my clients through creativity and future visioning skills, were part of the goal of entrepreneurship education. I initially resisted, of course, as the entrepreneurship language was quite alien to me. However, the feedback from a rather cheeky approach of delivering the same paper to both the HEA’s Business and Art conferences with her convinced me, and was further confirmed when an updated version caught the attention of Prof. Allan Gibb. He persuaded us to go to Brazil to present our case. There we won a best international paper award, and a seed of a question emerged – how many other disciplines could contribute to what appeared to be a business and management dominated topic?

Where it all started – Leeds early 2010. Hosted by HEA (AdvanceHE) and EEUK, Steve Ball and Janine Swail lead a SWOT analysis for QAA.

I ended up leading HEA’s (now AdvanceHE) Special Interest Group in Entrepreneurial Learning, and the question began to be answered. Gaps were spotted and insights gained, so I presented my case to the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. I suggested a new guidance document that could be used by any discipline, noting that theatre and performance had significant expertise in learning to be persuasive, medical education could offer real insights into decision making under stress and agricultural education provided excellent learning into future thinking. I even pointed out that history and classic Greek scholars were excellent at making decisions when presented with incomplete evidence to act upon.

In 2010, at the last IEEC in Wales, I was EEUK’s Chair, and a Concordat was developed with delegates that, amongst other things, called for better guidance in terms of quality of the education in entrepreneurship. Thus, the scene was set, and after consulting 32 of QAA’s Subject Benchmark Statement, and presenting the initial idea to QAA, a meeting hosted by Alison Price in Leeds Met (now Leeds Becket), confirmed QAA’s interest. The only problem was that something as interdisciplinary as this had never been done before, so we were breaking new ground. Tasked with inviting a team of experts to work on the concept, EEUK and its network came up trumps, and by 2012, the first version was out for national consultation, and the revised version was published within a few months. The concept also caught the attention of colleagues interested in Education for Sustainable Development, who subsequently produced their own first guidance in 2014 using a similar strategy. Both have subsequently been updated after National Consultations in 2018 and 2021.

QAA Quality Enhancement Network event in Glasgow – discussing potential links between enterprise and QAA Subject Benchmark Statement

As some of you will have noticed, we have now turned full circle, as the most recent suite of Subject Benchmark Statement all include Sustainability and Enterprise and Entrepreneurship. 14 examples, from Archaeology to Chemistry and from Earth Science to Policing echo Neil Coles’ seminal work on the A to Z of Enterprise, which in turn had caught the eye of Lord David Young in his ‘Enterprise for All’.

Key learning from the QAA’s work was that examination-dominated curriculum leads to learning for hindsight, as we can only talk about the past when dealing with certainty of facts. As a designer, I learned to develop opportunity spotting, which we termed insights. When insights are linked, they offer foresight, where well-informed best guesses come together to provide a vision of the future. It will therefore come as no surprise that each new Subject Benchmark is based on what they call ‘Vision Statements’, with enterprise and entrepreneurship at their helm. This makes the work of EEUK members more transparent to a range of disciplines and with increased visibility, increased demand is likely to follow.

The work of EEUK has never been more important.

Andy Penaluna, Professor Emeritus at University of Wales Trinity Saint David


Further information

QAA’s launch of 14 new Benchmark Statement can be found at:

QAA Benchmark Statements per subject:

The 2010 IEEC Concordat details five goals that were determined by delegate contribution. See:


Consult and Be Heard

Written by Alison Price

We all know that the best policy is informed by practitioners, so whenever the opportunity arises, EEUK is keen for the voice of the membership to be heard.  This can be in areas that are directly related to our wide spectrum of an Enterprise Educator’s work, such as our recent calls to members to support the APPG Entrepreneurship in their schools work  or UKRI (UK Research and Innovation & Research England) in their KEF review.  In addition, we are flagging Wonkhe and Pearson’s survey that explores students’ sense of belonging and inclusion at university.

Picking up on our recent policy themes, there is commentary on GEM women’s report, that suggests that whilst women-led initiatives now make up a large proportion of the entrepreneurial ventures driving job creation, innovation, and economic growth, women still face access barriers to networks, finance, and role models they need to run profitable businesses. The challenge is now to adapt the eco-system to provide this support.

If you missed The Rose Review Progress Report 2022 it came out in Feb ‘22 and outlines the extra support needed for female-led businesses to thrive; the Rose Review shows that the impact of Covid-19 risks holding back progress. It suggests that despite the rapid growth in female-led start-ups, female entrepreneurs have experienced additional caring responsibilities during the pandemic that has impacted their business. In positive news, they launched the Women Backing Women campaign (to increase chances of early-stage investment) and have record numbers of financial service providers signed up to the Investing in Women Code.

“Levelling up” is challenged as a route to addressing regional inequalities in this Institute for Government paper, which looks at skills, R&D as well as education, giving food for thought to those engaging regionally.

Graduate employment is ‘myth-busted’ in a new UUK report, which 2019 IEEC keynote Charlie Ball summarises in his appreciation of the mismatch between graduate skills and employer needs.

Finally, our latest EEUK blog helps connects the dots when seeking entrepreneurial, sustainable and ethical outcomes for business starts and curriculum.

Alison Price
Head of Policy and Professional Development

April 2022

EEUK features in inaugural Octopus of Enterprise Educators podcast

Written by Rob Edwards

Listen now to the first episode of new podcast, The Octopus of Enterprise Educators, as host Diana Pasek-Atkinson of NTU Enterprise chats with EEUK President, Dr Emily Beaumont and EEUK Vice President, Dr Philip Clegg about the role and remit of EEUK and the exciting opportunity of being part of one of the organisation’s new MAGs (Membership Advisory Groups).

EEUK President, Dr Emily Beaumont

The MAGs are a new initiative from EEUK. The three groups focus on the needs of EEUK Associates (i.e. anyone working within an EEUK member organisation) that align with the three professional pathways identified by the EEUK Fellowship; Academic, Practitioner and Influencer.

Members of the groups advise the Board of issues and opportunities related to the specific pathway as well as generate ideas on how EEUK can develop its offer. The groups are also responsible for the production of targeted marketing materials, communications and online resources. Each group has six places for the relevant EEUK Associates and each has six vacancies currently. The Terms of Reference for the MAGs are available here; anyone at an EEUK member organisation who is interested in applying to join a MAG should complete the form on the EEUK website. The current deadline is Friday 29th April.

EEUK Vice President, Dr Philip Clegg


About The Octopus of Enterprise Educators

Sister to The Octopus Of Enterprise, The Octopus Of Enterprise Educators is a new podcast from NTU Enterprise for those who help anyone and everyone to understand enterprise, start-up, grow and innovate in business, in education and beyond. Thank you to the team for inviting EEUK to take part.


Listen to the podcast episode below!

Eat your Greens

Written by Alison Price

With a crop of “go-to” #EntEd reports coming out, there is focus upon the current and future needs of students/graduates, the impact of the pandemic on entrepreneurship, and how we, as educators, can support others to innovate sustainably.

Firstly the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM 21/22) is reporting significantly increased levels of entrepreneurship in the UK, and across the world, as entrepreneurs harness the pandemic to present new opportunities for growth.   The GEM report recommendations focus, as many reports do, on the need for access to finance and investment as a priority but also highlight for the UK the need to ease the burdens relating to Brexit to enable new entrepreneurs to thrive.

GEM also recognises that entrepreneurs are increasingly delivering solutions to environmental and societal challenges, linking to the QAA subject companion guide on education for sustainable development (launched last year) as well as the newly released (Jan ‘22) GreenComp.

EEUK Associates will know EntreComp which has become an increasingly key part of the QAA guidance (2018) for those seeking to explicitly identify the competences that they are building with students, or wishing to articulate clear learning outcomes and develop assessment rubrics; they may be less aware of the wider work that now supports EntreComp or that both ‘comp’ frameworks form part of a “library” of wider work competences, including LifeComp and DigComp. With LifeComp forming an overarching vision, each subset (DigComp, GreenComp.  EntreComp) allowing you to draw on specific or more detailed competences as necessary.

In addition, there are new “fostering” guides out, which outline five key actions towards a digital, green and resilient Europe through a guide for fostering women’s entrepreneurship and a guide for fostering entrepreneurship education.

In addition, graduate employability has been picked up within the What do graduates do? 21/21  (JISC/AGCAS) while our partner organisation AGCAS has also joined ISE, handshake and sector-leading WONKHE to look at the shape of Careers Services within the new Careers2032 report highlighting the need for personalised and hybrid support.

And finally, EEUK needs your help as there is an opportunity to comment on specific proposals for changes within the KEF, commenting on the future direction of travel for the KEF dashboard design and narrative through the KEF2.  Join us to shape a response to the  KEF options survey (open until 28 April 2022) –  share your views to amplify our voice!

Alison Price
Head of Policy and Professional Development

The Future is calling

Written by Alison Price

EEUK members seek to upskill their practice to ensure that it futureproofs their own work, as well as those of their students and graduates.  This month brings some clarity on emerging priorities that will interest EEUK Associates, whether practitioners, academics, and influencers, as they consider the operational, the structural and how best to build those competences.

EEUK practitioners (business coaches and advisors) may have been ‘part of the problem’ (*as many will have rightly advised delays to proposed business starts) as the recent State of Small Business Britain report (2021) recorded a sharp fall in levels of early-stage entrepreneurs starting a new business (compared 2019).  *However, many will also be interested to note that within this pandemic-affected figure, ethnic-minority communities have maintained 2019 levels of early-stage entrepreneurial activity.
This report identifies what it calls the ‘Triple Transition’ as the three challenges for SMEs throughout COVID-19, by exploring the difficulties increasing business digitisation, moving towards net zero practices, and productivity upgrading. These are challenges being faced by EEUK Influencers who may be looking to UK’s first Cyber Strategy (seeking to build a “cyber resilient public sector”) or to futureproof the running of their Enterprise Centre by learning from the practice/challenges of entrepreneurs (like 98% of SMEs that have been identified as using in appropriate software (spreadsheets) for ‘mission critical’ operations).

As levels of self-employment started to increase in 2021, it is clear that future proofing a business needs to consider these three challenges and with the addition of GreenComp making a timely contribution to our work (together with wider initiatives, such as EUSTEPs (an Erasmus +project that has a goal to support the assessment and reduction of the environmental impact of EU Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) through an experiential approach; as the EUSTEPs learning-by-doing philosophy will resonate with EEUK Associates).

In seeking to create major change through our work (such as addressing the staggering fact that 92% of all VCs are white male (Sharon Vosmek 2021) EEUK Associates can also access gender insights on ENTRECOMP, by drawing upon EntreComp 360 Erasmus+ project (2019-2022) which has created the new “Women’s Entrepreneurship and EntreComp” Guide, full of links to projects that can inspire practice.

These are the ‘future-proofing challenges’ that EEUK members are exploring and our events will continue to bring this practice to life for you as we share our approaches across the network! Get in touch!

Alison Price, Head of Policy and Professional Development, EEUK