How entrepreneurial skills are embedded

As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, Universities Scotland is highlighting how universities in Scotland are embedding entrepreneurship and enterprise in students and staff. Across eight blogs this week, we have experts the length and breadth of Scotland telling their stories about how universities are contributing to make Scotland an entrepreneurial nation.

Our second blog this week comes from Bonnie Hacking, Enterprise Adviser in the Careers Centre and School of Management at the University of St Andrews. Bonnie explains how the university approached embedded entrepreneurial skills across the institution.

“It only takes a spark to light a forest fire.  I believe it is the same with enterprise.  If we want to ignite the enterprising spark in our students, we must be a strong community of educators, with access to the best practice available.”

Those were the words I used in my nomination to the board of Enterprise Educators UK (EEUK) in 2011 and I still believe them now.  But how is that aspiration being driven forward in my own university?

The University of St Andrews has embraced the need to become more enterprising and entrepreneurial to ensure we remain a top university and a valued employer.  We are engaging staff and students in embedding enterprise in the curriculum for the benefit of our university, staff and importantly our students and their future employability.

The QAA Scotland’s series of webinars and events inspired us to reflect on how we could embed enterprise into the curriculum more broadly and develop our own local enterprise ecosystem for doing so.

Led by our Associate Dean of Arts, Professor Catherine O’Leary we embarked on our enterprise journey.  We started off with our own series of learning and teaching fora to get academic staff reflecting on how they might already be teaching enterprise and thinking about how they could be more enterprising in their approach to learning and teaching.  We debunked some of the myths surrounding enterprise education.  We established that enterprise education reflects good teaching and learning practice and identified areas where it is already being taking place, albeit often without the ‘enterprise’ label.  We heard about the importance of developing enterprise capabilities from a colleague at the University of Sheffield; we learned about the institutional change needed from a colleague at Newcastle; and we heard about the approach taken by colleagues from the University of Dundee.

We developed our enterprise capabilities to provide a framework for showing how behaviours, skills and attributes can be highlighted to students and brought into teaching and learning:

  1. Creativity and innovation
  2. Opportunity recognition, creation and evaluation
  3. Decision making supported by critical analysis and judgement
  4. Implementation of ideas through leadership
  5. Reflection and action
  6. Communication and strategy skills

It is expected by highlighting where and how these capabilities are delivered in the curriculum, students and staff will see opportunities for applying these skills elsewhere, for example in clubs, societies, future jobs and current research.

Academic colleagues who demonstrated interest and enthusiasm for embedding enterprise formed an Enterprise Education Network to champion this work across the university.  The network, supported by the Vice-Principal Education, is organising enterprise education events and sharing good practice through case studies of enterprise education across modules and programmes in Schools, showcasing to students, staff and the wider public, including future employers,.  The network is also mapping and developing our enterprise education provision.  Through our Teaching Development Fund, staff can access financial support for enterprise focused teaching enhancements.

The ultimate aim of our work is for our students to cultivate an enterprising mindset and develop their capabilities and involving students in the design and delivery of what we do is important.  We worked with the Students’ Association to establish a network of Student Enterprise Champions to support and drive the university’s efforts.  Students Enterprise Champions are supporting the mapping of existing enterprise education in the curriculum and giving us feedback on their experience.   They act as ambassadors, promoting enterprise education and applying enterprise capabilities and skills in academic and extra-curricular activities.

It’s an exciting journey and one we’ve really just started on, however when a colleague from the School of Mathematics and Statistics said she never thought she would use the words maths and enterprise in the same sentence, as an introduction to her talk on embedding enterprise in her module, I knew we were definitely getting somewhere!

Our ambition for the future is to continue to focus on enterprise education in the curriculum.  It is one of our strategic priorities for learning and teaching and we intend to continue the work we have begun.  Our Enterprise Education Committee, led by the Associate Deans of Art and Science will collaborate with and support colleagues in our enterprise ecosystem.

The enterprising spark is spreading at the University of St Andrews!


You can read the rest of the blogs in this series as they are published at: