In an HE sector focused on outcomes for students, particularly around employability and skills it is easy to think of the ‘Uni to employment’ model as the main career trajectory for our graduates. But that’s only part of the story. What about graduates as future business owners – employers in their own right? Santander reported in January 2018 that 26% of UK students and recent graduates set up their own companies. Universities and colleges have a real opportunity to support those students with skills and knowledge to thrive wherever their career takes them.

What can Higher Education providers do to foster and drive entrepreneurial spirit in their students? And how can existing businesses get involved and lend a hand? QAA, working with experts in enterprise education, recently revamped its practical guidance on how to embed enterprise and entrepreneurship in higher education institutions.

Guidance for UK Higher Education Providers

The Guidance for Higher Education Providers first released in 2012 offered a “stake in the sand” to help those working in HE to foster their skills in enterprise and entrepreneurship. The guidance quickly became a framework for the delivery of entrepreneurial education not only across the UK, but across the world, and for different levels of education.

A significant revision of the document was launched in January 2018 and it bears witness to how this subject area has grown in confidence, status and popularity in UK HE. The new guidance has tightened up the definitions of enterprise, entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial education and makes explicit the links with employability and helpfully sets out the national and international policy context. The document offers a value statement as to the importance of entrepreneurial education and the key competencies of an entrepreneurial educator; recognising the latest delivery methods, the student learning experience and importantly, outlines what a supportive institution looks like.

QAA launch


The revision came together through an extensive scoping exercise using QAA’s Quality Enhancement Network. Subsequently, we brought together an expert advisory group chaired by Professor Andy Penaluna of University of Wales Trinity Saint David. This group represents institutions and sector bodies from across the UK who offered the latest policy and good practice perspectives.

As a result, the revised guidance offers a renewed framework that reflects the current landscape and offers specific advice to institutions delivering enterprise and entrepreneurship education. The European Entrepreneurship framework “Entrecomp” has aligned to the guidance and it has been added to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Entrepreneurship Policy Hub as an international leading piece of guidance on entrepreneurial education.




That’s all very interesting, but… what is the value of entrepreneurial education to students, employers and institutions?


Engagement with Enterprise education offers students the opportunity to develop a range of competencies, attributes and behaviours that enable them to gain the mindset and capability to generate original ideas in response to need, shortfall and opportunity. It can be based on any discipline and enables students to have the confidence to act on their ideas even in changing or ambiguous circumstances. As their Enterprise skill-set develops, Entrepreneurship education builds on those competencies, attributes and behaviours to enable students to seek out new opportunities, raise career aspirations, and to be more resilient and better adapted to changing environments. Ultimately, students will be the entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs of the future.

The specific competencies, attributes and behaviours that an entrepreneurial graduate can demonstrate are, without doubt, of value to employers. The most commonly identified enhanced abilities as a direct result of this type of education are illustrated in the word cloud opposite.

For Institutions, Enterprise and Entrepreneurship education supports important strategic areas around student outcomes, teaching and learning, research and impact, knowledge exchange and engagement. In addition, spin-out or graduate start-up companies can build credibility for the institution and enhance external relationships, networks and local community.

As a business or employer, how can I get involved in entrepreneurial education in HE?

There are a number of ways a company, business or entrepreneur can engage with entrepreneurial education in HE. As a starting point, it’s worth ensuring you are speaking to the right person – this would be the manager of entrepreneurial activities in the institution. You should be able to access this information by searching the website for ‘enterprise’, ‘entrepreneurship’, ‘knowledge exchange’ or ‘links with business’.  For subject specific enquiries it may be worth contacting a subject specialist lecturer and ask who leads their enterprise team.  Once you have the right person, explore the ways you can get involved, some of which are listed below:

  • Companies and communities bring specific problems for students to work on them;
  • Entrepreneurs are often used as guest speakers and some might be ‘Entrepreneur in residence’;
  • Mentoring for students and staff;
  • Judging award panels for competitions;
  • Hosting student placements and projects;
  • Facilitating visits by students;
  • Incubating innovation projects and spin-out ventures;
  • And finally, but by no means least, as a critical friend.

A benefit expressed by businesses who engage with entrepreneurial students is the innovative responses and insights that they can offer.  You may even find out things about your own business that you hadn’t fully considered before!


By Ruth Burchell, Standards and Frameworks Coordinator, QAA

With thanks to Professor Andy Penaluna, University of Wales Trinity Saint David.


Credit: Launch of the Enterprise and Entrepreneurship: Guidance for UK Higher Education Providers, January 2018.  Top: Middle: Professor Andy Penaluna, Chair QAA Advisory Group, University of Wales, Trinity St David. Left: Margherita Bacigalupo, European Commission. Right: Fiorina Mugione, United Nations. Below: Student speakers: University of Buckingham. Abi Owolabi and Jordan Amadi-Myers