Entrepreneurship education – a case study at the University of the Western Cape
Although it is increasingly being acknowledged that teaching university students to be entrepreneurs is a critical responsibility of higher education institutions, there are limited examples of universities approaching this in a strategic and holistic fashion. This is not surprising as there are many challenges including:
- There seldom exists one locus for the coordination and planning of entrepreneurial activities across the institution
- The multi-faculty requirement for this teaching often “bounces against” the silo walls within universities
- Entrepreneurial education demands an experiential approach to be effective (just as you cannot learn to swim in a library, neither can you learn to create a business in a classroom) which does not always fit the way education is delivered at universities
- Frequently (and we believe often correctly) entrepreneurial education does not fall into the pure academic area and so receives less attention and resources than is required
- Few universities have sufficient and appropriately trained and experienced staff to offer entrepreneurial education at the scale required to allow students to make a difference
Given these challenges, it really excites us to see an institution “getting it right”; and even more pleasing when we have been fortunate enough to play a direct role in this achievement. Therefore we wish to congratulate Charleen Duncan (Director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa) and her team in making real progress in teaching entrepreneurship skills to a broad range of students at the university, across all faculties.
Attached is a document that showcases some of the main activities that the UWC CEI has undertaken together with some performance indicators. When reviewing this document and in conversations with the Centre and Charleen, we believe the key success factors have been:
- A focus on practical entrepreneurial education rather than theory
- A clear understanding of the possible impact of the initiatives in terms of job creation, student employability and the provision of life skills that contribute to the production of “21st Century Graduates” (being a primry focus of the institution)
- Availability of a variety of programmes designed to teach, inspire and motivate a broad range of students from all faculties
- The design of student-focussed initiatives that recognises the constraints of university students in terms of timing, pace, exams and different education levels
- Outreach beyond the university to the community, corporates and government environments.
- Incorporating best practices from international examples and tailoring them to the local environment.
- Using modern teaching and education methods such as “flipped classroom” thinking and harnessing the power of technology to scale and optimise the learning experience.
A further factor that has been important is Charleen’s untiring efforts to link to the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Western Cape, South Africa and internationally. We believe that having a leader within the university who plays a role in this broader network is essential for attracting the right resources to make these initiatives happen.
Here is a link to the UWC Student Entrepreneurship Report.
We would be happy to talk to anyone who is interested in developing their own entrepreneurial program (or entrepreneurial education strategy) and/or putting you in contact with Charleen herself. Please have a look at our “Home” page and “About” page to find out more and drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org . If you would like to have your university’s entrepreneurial activities showcased, then let’s get in contact.