Developing an entrepreneurial culture amongst students through LUMS’ network of Entrepreneurs in Residence

Lancaster University has a very strong reputation of working with business – particularly SMEs. This was reflected by the University receiving a Small Business Charter Gold Award, one of only four nationally. This commitment to supporting business and the national economy extends to young entrepreneurs among our student body.

Lancaster University’s wide-ranging entrepreneurial support to students encompasses embedding entrepreneurship within course modules, exploiting industry links, supporting new businesses through advice and resources, and also facilitating the creation of new companies through commercialising research outcomes.

Flexible undergraduate programmes within Lancaster University Management School’s (LUMS) Department for Entrepreneurship, Strategy and Innovation mean students are not only exposed to entrepreneurship teaching through specialist degree programmes, but entrepreneurship modules are available to all students across the faculty.

A range of undergraduate and postgraduate modules are delivered with input from local SMEs (small and medium-sized businesses) and our network of Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIRs). The number of EIRs was recently expanded and now includes around 40 business owners who are long-standing associates of the University and have taken part in some of our flagship management and leadership programmes. More than 1,600 students have undertaken these modules since 2012.

The idea for a network of Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIRs) came out of the experience of a programme funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) under which Ian Gordon became the founding Entrepreneur in Residence. His role was to explore ways to inform the development of departmental activities and to advise on matters such as the design and delivery of our programmes.

The Entrepreneurship in Practice module, devised and taught by Ian Gordon, who is now a Senior Teaching Fellow within the Management School, asks students to shadow an entrepreneur and interview them about their business models. This module is designed to give students as near an experience as possible of life as an entrepreneur.

The New Venture Planning module is offered to all final-year undergraduates from all departments within the Management School. In addition, students enrolled on the M.Sc. in Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Practice have the opportunity to attend Masterclasses by inspirational speakers, and also to shadow entrepreneurs.

These modules receive very high feedback scores from students with testimonials such as:

• “The chance to shadow an entrepreneur for group and individual tasks was the most priceless experience, as was the chance of attending a Masterclass”
• “Really challenging module – for the first time I got first-hand appreciation of the difficulties a start-up faces. Great experience.”

Ian Gordon, recognises not only the important contributions that the network of Entrepreneurs in Residence makes to the student experience in teaching on entrepreneurship and enterprise programmes but also how engagement with students fosters reflection on the EIRs’ own entrepreneurial practice:

‘My role is to ensure that Lancaster University Management School students and the Department of Entrepreneurship, Strategy and Innovation takes full advantage of the expertise and the acumen that this expanded cadre of Entrepreneurs in Residence will bring to a wide range of activities. The deliberate introduction of a ‘permeable membrane’ around our organisational structure will bring benefits to teaching, research and business connectivity’.

Gillian Hall, Owner of Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses, who has been an EIR for the past four years, is a strong ambassador for the benefits of this role:

‘I want to pay back some of the help I have received from LUMS and also support the liaison between small businesses and the Management School’

Sue Anderson, Managing Director of a successful family-run manufacturing business, Pendle Doors Ltd (pictured with a group of students in the Management School) was exceedingly enthusiastic about her involvement with this initiative:

‘I am enjoying being an Entrepreneur in Residence and convinced that it is very interesting and rewarding.’

Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) has a vibrant community of practising business owners who are to be found on campus to mentor students, foster business ideas and contribute to classroom and workshop activities. Students within LUMS work in Small and Medium-sized Businesses in the region on student consultancy projects and other knowledge exchange programmes.

 

Enterprise Educators UK is the national network for enterprise educators. Our purpose is simple - to support our members to increase the scale, scope and effectiveness of enterprise and entrepreneurship education and our vision is to be internationally acknowledged as the leading independent membership network developing and empowering enterprise educators. SBC invited us to provide examples of what some of our members are up to and we chose the theme around student enterprise which reflects the student facing start-up support element in the SBC Award. You have already heard from one of our SBC Gold Award holders recently: Leeds University and read about what Lancaster University are doing.