Shifting sands

Written by Alison Price


Shifting Sands: the mainstreaming of Enterprise Education

April saw EEUK Directors back at the Houses of Parliament, just a few months after the launch of the recent APPG-E report on Enterprise Education, this time for the launch of a new report by ncee and ACS International Schools.

Having first heard about this research at our September IEEC conference from ncee CEO Ceri Nursaw, EEUK attended on your behalf to hear the results in detail having seen the Times Higher describe enterprise support as in “freefall” (4th April).

As a membership organisation, EEUK seeks to contextualise research from our members’ perspective, sharing it to assist you in your work. (For example after the APPG report launched we created a “bite size” guide specifically designed to support the many and varied roles of our EEUK Associate, now structured under our EEUK Fellowship pathways (academic, practitioner, influencer).

The ncee/ACS International Schools research which compared ncee’s 2012 survey with the view of 62 “Heads of Enterprise” focused on the reported changes within this 6-year period and suggested some significant shifts in the sector.  The call for more focus and engagement, personally heralded by its Chair Ian Dunn, is hugely welcomed, and whilst EEUK members hope that KEF could be the next significant driver for English Universities to focus institutional strategy, ultimately becoming a significant step towards a unified and mainstream approach to this agenda, to hear this message going out across the sector is welcome news indeed.  However, as a Board, EEUK do not recognise all the trends outlined in the report and feel that these findings are best viewed by contextualising them within the changes in the sector over this time.

The research seeks to understand the last 6 years (2012-2018), a period which has seen a further maturing and mainstreaming of the enterprise/entrepreneurship agenda advanced by the launch of several pivotal documents such as the European Framework “Entrecomp” (see our policy note here) and the QAA guidance which, now in its second edition, has been the game changing document in the UK.  These documents have heralded a significant change in the resource base for enterprise educators working in the UK and been pivotal in encouraging much of the initial enterprise/entrepreneurship activity to become anchored within institutional approaches.  This means that the distinctive enterprise webpages or job titles which may have heralded this “new “ university activity can increasingly be seen within the fabric of the University as entrepreneurship centres have found their homes in faculties, careers centres and/or within external services as well starting to work more directly from within student facing portals/functions.  EEUK feels that, rather than indicating “freefall”, this marks part of continuing advancement of the agenda in which increasing numbers of staff relate to the breadth of work that can be seen as “enterprise education” (including student co-created knowledge exchange, student/graduate start-up as well as significant curriculum change) all of which is undertaken for the benefit of staff, students and local community/business.

EEUK itself reflects upon the changes we have seen over last 6 years, in which there has been a 70% rise in institutional membership (again possibly a reflection of the further mainstreaming of enterprise activities, with a wider range of staff now aware of EEUK and identifying their roles with the broad spectrum of activities undertaken by enterprise educators).  For EEUK, this has created record numbers of EEUK Associates wishing to  engage in EEUK events, to debate key sector changes with other Associates working with the same challenges (such as KEF, visa changes) and the desire to  come together to share approaches and learning  (delegate numbers at IEEC reached a record high last year in Leeds).

In this six year time period, the EEUK Board has also mobilised to respond to the continuing change in our sector and to deliver on our purpose for the benefit of members, by launching the EEUK Fellowship. By creating a pathway for EEUK associates and professionals working in the field to demonstrate their competence indicates a further maturing and supports the advancement of staff working in the field.  In this regard, EEUK echo the report’s recommendation for increasing staff support, and has recently responded with our new “Rough Guide” workshop.  This offers specific support for EEUK Associates who are “new to enterprise” and is specifically designed to help build capacity in our member institutions by responding to the changing needs of our members.

EEUK will continue to respond to the changing nature of the sector and as we currently wait to see whether KEF will be the significant driver in addressing the need for stability that our members seek . it is always useful to take a moment to reflect how far we have come.

Any comment, please contact me.

Alison Price, Head of Policy, Enterprise Educators UK