UK Universities Kill Entrepreneurship

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There is no way to teach Entrepreneurship. It’s not even something we can touch physically, but it’s the action of building and creating things. The biggest problem regarding Entrepreneurship is that it’s something we all share, but haven’t found it yet. It’s more a feeling to do something different and try to build a community of people who believe in what you believe, rather than a textbook or a lecture. However what we can do in order to improve the presence of Entrepreneurship in Universities, especially in UK, is to let creativity flow in the minds of students and also teachers.

Universities are focused on two main things, their ranking and the number of people who got a job at the end of their degree. There is nothing more. What they teach you in the first days is a way to be more employable by joining University societies and do some other extracurricular activity; because the aim is to have a good grade and loads of extracurriculars, you need “to look smart”.

I still remember the day when we faced the career service at the University of Manchester where they held a lecture about our “future”. After one hour of talking and throwing stats at us by telling how lucky we were to study Computer Science, I was the only one who asked the question “what about self-employment?” The answer was a straight “we have 200 people every year” with a smile and no knowledge about it.

Universities don’t care and probably will never do, but we can force them to think different. We don’t need a world of entrepreneurs, we need a world where people can see both ways, a secure and stable one, and another one, full of risks and failures. It doesn’t matter if you fail, because in the end, the experience you gain will help you to start again or pivot to the first choice.

Entrepreneurship is the product of creativity and vision. If we don’t start letting creativity flow, we’ll keep having a huge mass of students who don’t even know what innovation is about. The University system needs a complete cultural change, which might happen only if they will understand the importance of creating jobs. This cultural change is not given by the coursework taught, we don’t have to change the books, but the approach used in teaching it.

Textbooks show us how the world was built by those who lived before, but they don’t teach us how to create our own world. We need to start thinking that “the past is the past”, even though it’s useful to look further, and build our own future, which is not given and that can’t be taught. The way we solve things, the way we approach problems and the way lecturers inspire us are things that need to be changed.

I don’t care attending a guest lecture from a bank that tells me how good and cool their company is. I care when I see the CEO of Skyscanner, who attended the University of Manchester, and built a million dollar company, a guest lecturer that I’ll never see. Money doesn’t even matter, what matters is the ability to find his own independence just by building something out of nothing.

The next generation of entrepreneurs will be there if we start thinking that creating jobs is more important than finding, or if we give equal balance to both. We can’t live in a world where the head of the career service stares at me like someone who doesn’t even know what the word entrepreneurship is about. We need a world where Universities can help and support those who take the second path, the more challenging and difficult one, because if these people don’t find any support, they will give up.

“I used to advise people to go work for an existing company for a few years before trying to start their own, but I now think that was bad advice. It’s true that you learn things working for a big company, but you learn more, faster, starting your own.” (Paul Graham)

Edoardo Moreni

Blogger, Political Activist, Computer Scientist and Italian.

  • someone

    Not entirely right. Universities are more concerned about their image to prospective students.

    If such prospects want to get a job, then they’ll focus on employment. If they want a ranking, be it so. Lately, entrepreneurship is catching on, and hence more and more universities are jumping on the bandwagon. The US is a few steps ahead, which is why you now see a huge emphasis on the entrepreneurial support on campus evident in their promotion materials.

    Heck, even Ivy League MBAs want to do a startup now, so that’s what the university will provide. Or at least appear to. Manchester will learn soon enough.

    BTW Skyscanner CEO has come to Manchester Uni. Heard him speak myself.

    • Edoardo Moreni

      I still think that institutions, such as Universities, shouldn’t focus on what the prospects want. They shouldn’t be selling a product, but a path that may end in different scenarios.

  • Analissa Lim

    I think rather than it killing entrepreneurship it has yet to create the necessary requirements for it. Most students aim to get employment in companies. Startup’s themselves have only started becoming popular over the last few years because the idea of creating a business is traditionally seen as actually needing to create a tangible product or service, which costs hundred’s of thousands.

    Certainly university’s are trying to improve their careers services to accommodate this but we have to remember that percentage wise those who wish to create a business are relatively low. It is not as instantly profitable as simply getting a job somewhere else and earning a salary. In the end, it is up to the students to choose because if they cannot make up their mind or have the initiative to start their own business in the long run they won’t have the drive to be successful.

  • Jamie Rawsthorne

    Business Team Entrepreneurship is a honours course currently run at the University of West of England and Northumbria University. On the course students are split into two groups of around 20 and set up their own limited companies and run real business projects. The academic underpinning comes from reflective essays on learning and on literature reviews. All this and then at the end of the 3 years they get a degree from it!