23rd October 2019

Our university is a non-affiliated university based in the north of England. It has three strategic priorities; to conduct research that changes practice and thinking, to transform people’s lives and society through teaching, and to engage actively with their three beneficiary groups namely students, businesses and the local community.

The university-wide enterprise and entrepreneurship activity for students is led by a team in a centrally based professional services department, comprising nine heads (seven FTE). This team is partially reliant on external funding. European Regional Development Funding has been used to develop and deliver a student and graduate start-up project in partnership with another local university. This project supports individual students, recent graduates and some staff to develop entrepreneurial capacity and intent. Around 70% of its work is extra-curricular based and the remainder co-curricular work created in partnership with academics. The co-curricular work undertaken by the enterprise team is divided into work with academics who reach out to the team to request that they deliver a real-world challenge element to the students and the academics build the assessment around this. Alternatively, it is academics from faculties other than the business school who want to embed enterprise and entrepreneurship activity into their modules, so they invite the enterprise team to train the trainer and provide advice and guidance to enable the academics to deliver it themselves.

The University enterprise team offers a comprehensive suite of support to students including one-to-one appointments or drop-ins, where a member of the team will run a diagnostic with the individual learner to enable them to access tailored support depending where they are on their entrepreneurial journey. The menu of support offered includes; creative thinking workshops, business model development, insights into industry, creative enterprise support, help with business registration, expert advice drop-ins, and co-working facilities. They also provide opportunities to pitch for funding if appropriate and the University has a VC Fund, run by students, who are trained to conduct everything from the initial due diligence right through to making investment recommendations.

Of the four faculties around 50% of the students engaging with the enterprise team come from the business school. The business school has, over the last couple of years, made a concerted effort to focus their flagship undergraduate degree that specialises in entrepreneurship on experiential learning underpinned by theory and research. The business school has fifteen faculty members who are research-active in entrepreneurship and teach on this degree and the other associated entrepreneurship modules that are available for students across the whole university. Forty to fifty students, coming in with AAB grades, enrol on the degree each year, with between 120 and 150 students enrolled on it at any one time. It can be taken as a straight three year degree or over four years incorporating an industrial placement or a year abroad. The programme also features an enterprise challenge which could either be working with a mentor to produce a business plan; an in-company project centred around innovation, or by conducting a research project. The take up of entrepreneurship modules by non-major students is very high, but this is mainly business school students.

The business school is particularly keen for their students to engage with and understand real-world challenges and they use their extensive network of Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) as well as alumni who come from a wide range of industries and differing backgrounds to complement the content of lectures and seminars through discussant activities.

Measuring impact is viewed as important but difficult to capture as impacts are not necessarily immediate, although this is something the University wishes to capture more in the future. Plenty of faculty members are in touch with former students via LinkedIn and a more formalised approach to capturing their data is being considered with the realisation that the impact of the degree on students’ lives is not always immediate.

This case study was provided to us as part of our ongoing look at how student enterprise is being supported by business schools at the university level. The business school featured in the case study has kindly given us permission to share it anonymously.