What the creative industries can show us about enterprise & entrepreneurship education

Written by Marcus O'Dair

Happy New Year, everyone. Marcus here, an Associate Dean of Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise at University of the Arts London. Since a university offering courses in art, design, fashion, media and performance is perhaps a slightly unusual home for an EEUK Director, I thought I’d use this opportunity to say a few words about creative enterprise and entrepreneurship education.

In one sense, of course, all entrepreneurship is creative, in the sense that it is both novel and useful. I’m talking, though, about entrepreneurship in the cultural and creative economy. For this blog, at least, I’m including freelancing and self-employment under that umbrella.

This might come as a surprise if you think of artists in Romantic terms as people living in garrets but, by some measures, UAL leads the UK higher education sector in producing entrepreneurs. This has something to do with the fact that self-employment accounts for 32% of creative industry employment in the UK, compared to 16% in the economy as a whole.

It is incumbent upon us, then, to give our students the skills and knowledge they need to start and run successful businesses, even if that success is defined in terms that go beyond the narrowly financial. At UAL, I’ve been involved in projects including the £900,000 StART Entrepreneurship programme, in setting up incubation for graduates and in supporting local creative businesses. There are numerous other initiatives across UAL and the entire sector.

If you work in a business school, you might be wondering what all this has to do with you. The answer is that I have always wondered if we, in art schools and arts and creative industries faculties, come at enterprise education in an unusual way. If so, I have wondered whether our approach could be of interest to the wider enterprise education community – especially given the prevalence of so-called ‘design thinking’ in enterprise and entrepreneurship education. A couple of years ago, for instance, I received EEUK funding to conduct a small project in which some of our design students reworked the business model canvas. You can see some of their alternative canvases here. Anyway, if you’re interested, please get in touch.