A recent article in the Guardian posed the question: Are universities doing enough to help students start businesses? It seems reasonable to ask given that, according to recent research, more than a quarter of students have started, or plan to start, a small venture while studying. And some 10% have ambitions to start a business or continue with their existing venture after university.
This reflects the attitudes of students (at least in the UK) already at university, but what about the next cohort, GenZ? As we reported recently, research by Barnes and Noble College entitled Getting To Know Gen Z: Exploring Middle and High Schoolers’ Expectations For Higher Education (pdf), revealed that many teens in the US are already fledgling entrepreneurs, with more than one-third either currently running their own business or planning on having one in the future. Those aged between 13-15 were twice as likely to currently have their own online business compared to older teens.
However well they are doing now, there is no doubt universities will have to ramp up and continuously improve their offerings in the future. The demand is not likely to go away.
Right now, postgraduate entrepreneurship or small-business subjects are offered in 90 per cent of Australian universities, according to a report in the Australian Financial Review.
Colin Jones of the University of Tasmania’s Innovation Research Centre, was quoted as saying that every university in the world “is thinking about how they expose more students, across more disciplines, to entrepreneurship … They recognise that it is too important to be seen only as a business subject.”
Many universities also run undergraduate entrepreneurship courses or programs, either on campus or accessed online.
It maybe unfair, though, to put all the focus on what universities are doing to help the next generation of entrepreneurial self-starters. They are, after all, only one factor in the equation.
As the founder and president of the GEDI Institute Zoltan Acs has pointed out, also needed are “entrepreneur-rich ecosytems”. That is, government policy settings should seek to provide an innovative economic culture in which entrepreneurs of all stripes can thrive and prosper – not just for their own good, but also to the benefit of their nation.
So, are universities doing enough? The answer might be something like “They are doing their best, perhaps they could do better, no-doubt they will try harder, but let’s also ask if the rest of our ‘eco-system’ is doing its bit too.”