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: