Crossing the divide: developing an enterprising culture by bridging curricular and co-curricular opportunities

Should the enterprise opportunities offered to our HE students be co-curricular or curricular? There are some good arguments for both. Funding for start-ups, business plan competitions and practical workshops on the legalities of getting a business right are typically, and most appropriately, delivered through co-curricular routes.

However, there is an increasing number of courses offering enterprise and the development of entrepreneurial skills within a curriculum, which make the most of creating a structure and supporting students who may not otherwise have engaged in this activity.

I would argue that the most powerful and impactful opportunities cross this divide. It’s not easy to do but when we can get it right, it offers the benefits of both curricular and co-curricular approaches.

One example of this kind of activity going on in the University of Leeds, is the opportunity for students to undertake a Year in Enterprise. The year is set up for second year students who have a workable business plan and wish to spend their third year developing their business. The year begins late August/Early September and last for 12 months. The year works in the same way as a work placement year with students remaining registered at the University and completing academic assessments to ‘pass’. The students benefit from funding and business mentoring but also an academic tutor and a structured approach to developing their skills.

Currently on his Year in Enterprise, Ravi is working on his second business venture: Filamentive, a sustainable 3D printing materials business.

Ravi explained how he got into the industry: “I noticed a good margin on the 3D printers… so I started selling the printers along with the materials that go with them. However, I noticed a lot of the materials were coming from China, so I saw a gap in the market for European suppliers and decided to go for it.”

“I’ve always wanted to start my own business… I was 15 when I first started buying and selling iPod and iPhone accessories online. I find buying and selling things really exciting. The opportunities are endless,” said Ravi.

Finding the Year in Enterprise advertised on the Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Studies website, Ravi decided to apply and was successful. Following this he has also just been awarded the Enterprise Scholarship, which gives him access to business support and mentoring from Spark along with £3000 worth of funding.

During this year, Ravi is enrolled on a module that equates to a year's worth of credits and has to complete academic work, whilst also building his business. It means that the academic centre and the business start-up centre (Spark) work closely together; bringing together curricular and co-curricular opportunities for our students.

"Of course, working with my colleagues at Enterprise Educators UK, it becomes easier to find areas of collaboration with a big pool of educators coming from all areas of universities." Discussions at our events (such as the International Enterprise Educators Conference) are rich with diversity and enthusiasm for finding the best opportunities for our students – whether curricular, co-curricular or both!

Dr Sarah Underwood, Director of the Centre for Enterprise & Entrepreneurship Studies
Board Director of Enterprise Educators UK

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.