Supporting student enterprise across the university in Scotland
The University of Strathclyde is a large research-intensive institution based in Glasgow, Scotland. It was created with the ambition to develop ‘useful learning’ with practical application for the benefit of wider society. The university comprises of five faculties: Engineering, Science, Humanities and Social Science, and Strathclyde Business School. In 2016/17 the university recruited over 20,000 students, of which over 30% are studying on a postgraduate programme. With the absence of student fees, many of the students recruited at undergraduate level are local to the area, with the university attracting a large number of students from SIMD areas (Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation). At postgraduate level, the student population is more international and far more diverse.
For the University of Strathclyde employability, entrepreneurship and enterprise are viewed as conjoined. A broad interpretation of entrepreneurship is adopted, with skills associated with these terms perceived to have application to a wide range of organisational forms, not simply start-up activity. Although the University works towards the hard metrics associated with graduate outcomes, there is a set of graduate attributes which are built into programme design. In addition to accomplishment in the functional area of study, they include creativity, problem solving, and communication. Associated with these are a series of values which encourage graduates to be people centred, collaborative, bold, innovative and ambitious. Within the business school especially there is a drive to encourage students and graduates to support their community and this is accomplished and recognised through a credit bearing part of their programme incorporating volunteering and community projects.
The skills associated with entrepreneurship are thought to be applicable and supportive of all of these outcomes. At the undergraduate level, reference is made to pathways and a journey, however this is viewed as simply ‘one piece of the bigger jigsaw’. Presently there is no compulsory enterprise element within programmes, this is due, in part, to the professional accreditations associated with many programmes, the pressure on timetabling and the desire for students to have choice in their pathway.
The University has developed an enterprise and entrepreneurial eco-system. It is emphasised that student enterprise is just one element of this enterprise eco-system and that the broad sense of the eco-system, which encompasses both the university and the wider enterprise community, is essential for student enterprise to flourish. The internal eco-system includes an enterprise hub, accelerator and incubator. The enterprise hub is a central resource for extra-curricular support for enterprise and entrepreneurship for any student, staff member or graduate of the university. The incubator is attached to the enterprise hub along with the accelerator to support start-up activity.
The business school accounts for approximately 15% of the total student population. Within the business school is a centre dedicated to the study and application of entrepreneurship, the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship. The centre was founded by an alumnus of the university over 20 years ago. Today, it is self-sufficient and generates surplus through a diverse range of income streams, which include teaching fees, executive programmes, research council funding and consultancy. The centre is internationally renowned for its research and comprises of twenty-one academics and three members of professional services. The centre offers both undergraduate and postgraduate taught programmes in entrepreneurship and has a large PhD community. The centre contributes to MBA and MBM programmes within the business school and postgraduate electives across the institution, in addition to contributing to the programmes offered by the enterprise hub. The business school is well connected to other faculties, offering spring and summer schools for non-business school students. There is also a cross-disciplinary in-curriculum project which brings students together from different faculties to deliver on a practical issue. After graduation, the University of Strathclyde expects approximately one third of students from the centre to start a business, one third will enter the corporate world, and the final third will work in a family business.
The University of Strathclyde strongly promotes a sense of the institution working as one, this applies to the enterprise eco-system where it seeks to promote a culture of collaboration and joined up thinking across the various faculties and services. Enterprise within the institution is overseen by an Associate Principal for Research and Knowledge Exchange. There is an Enterprise Forum, which brings together academic and professional service representatives from every department who are involved in enterprise activity (teaching, research and impact). The forum reports to an Enterprise Steering Group which is chaired by the Principal, with membership which includes the Head of the business school, Chief Commercial Officer and Associate Principal of Research and Enterprise. The forum and steering group work together to avoid gaps in provision, reduce conflict between the various parties and seek to reduce the risk of duplication. The goal is to ensure that any student, graduate, staff member or external stakeholder experience a sense of joined up provision which is suited to their requirements.
The institution is well connected to the external enterprise environment, with several key stakeholders based on the campus and strong connections with public and private stakeholders in the country. Local SMEs are well catered for through a number of programmes focused on growth and development. This integration with the external community is critical due to the emphasis in the curriculum to provide students with the opportunity to work with local entrepreneurs and local firms, through short term work placements, internships or projects. Within the institution is a team that match the requirements of the organisation with the skills available amongst the students. The external contacts are also critical in the development and funding of entrepreneurship competitions for students. The external relations also mean that where support for enterprise or entrepreneurship is not available within the institutional eco-system, the institution is happy to sign-post the student, staff or alumni to the external resource. Although the students’ union are not involved in the provision of enterprise support, there are a number of student led groups (including Enactus) which support entrepreneurial engagement within the local community and this feeds back into the university-level provision.
This case study was shared with us by the team at Strathclyde Business School to support our report on how student enterprise is supported by business schools at the university level. You can download the full report and read commentary and case studies here.