Nurturing Enterprise in the Curriculum - Visit to St Andrews

Hi everyone!

We hope that you are all well, especially after last week’s visit from "the Beast from the East"!

This blog is about enterprise education within universities, taken by the case of the University of Dundee. As John Willsdon, Enterprise Educator of our university put it:

“The days of the safe nine-to-five job for life, if they ever existed, are gone and students need to consider all the potential exit routes that arise from their degree studies. Entrepreneurialism and simply being enterprising have to be part of those routes”

Staff are doing their best for students to get exposure to enterprising activities so that they develop their skills in that area. Particularly at the University of St Andrews, Bonnie Hacking, who is the Enterprise Adviser, works together with Erwin Lair, Academic Staff Developer and Dr Catherine O’leary, Associate of Dean of Arts and leader of enterprise education program. This program aims to enable academics to embed enterprise in the curriculum through the teaching of their own subject.  

Universities liaise together in their effort to provide enterprise education effectively. Bonnie reached out to Shona Johnston, Head of Careers, Employability and Enterprise of our university to invite her along with John Willsdon to the University of St Andrews to give a talk to academics specialised in various subjects. The topic covered by Shona and John referred to the assessment of enterprise education both in students’ learning but also institutionally.

 

St Andrews School of Management – Photo found on https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/csear/

 

I have had the opportunity to ask Shona and John a few questions regarding their role within the University but also regarding their talk at the University of St. Andrew’s and here is what they had to say:

Could you describe in a few words your responsibilities within the University of Dundee in terms of your role?

Shona: I’m responsible for developing the University’s provision in Employability, Enterprise & Entrepreneurship through the Careers Service and Centre of Entrepreneurship. We want every student to have a chance to develop the skills they need for their futures, whether they work for themselves or someone else, and offer lots of opportunities to do this both within the curriculum and outside it.

John: My title in the University is ‘Enterprise Educator’. I am responsible for delivering a number of modules and one-off talks to a variety of students throughout the University on the subjects of enterprise, creativity and entrepreneurship. I see myself as someone who encourages students to look outside their, often constrained, view of what their future might hold and consider ‘what if?’

Why do you think that enterprising skills are important today and why should students be encouraged in developing them before graduating?

Shona: Most students will work in some kind of business, whether it’s their own or someone else’s, commercially focussed or values driven. So learning about how a business operates is really important. Skills like creativity and problem-solving can be applied in any area, including planning your own career! 

John: Most people believe that only entrepreneurs need to be enterprising and creative, but most of what I cover in class could be applied by the majority of students to make them more desirable employees. Employers are looking for more than graduates who have only a knowledge and understanding of their subject. They need graduates who think out of the box, challenge the norm and constantly seek to improve. These are attributes of many entrepreneurs, but they can also apply to graduate employees.

 

What are the main issues with assessment of enterprise education nowadays?

Shona: We want to allow students to try out different ideas and be allowed to “fail” in a business sense, but still do well in their assignments. So we need to think about what skills we really want to see and assess these.

John: A variety of assessment instruments are used, but often a focus is placed on students having to produce a business plan around an idea they have developed. This process is often unlike anything the students have seen before and they find it difficult to understand the relevance. Having said this most students will go on to be employed by businesses which regularly create business plans. By asking students to focus on this process as part of an assessment we are introducing them to the world of business and, if nothing else, letting the student see where they can contribute to that process in the real world.

Is there anything else you would like to share in regard to your experience in St. Andrew’s?

Shona: One of the nice things about the St Andrews event was meeting academics from different disciplines – you can be enterprising regardless of what subject background you’re from!

John: It was great getting to work with academics from another university and knowing that what we do here at Dundee could help them further develop their entrepreneurship strategy. There is also scope that we can learn from the eventual direction they take to introducing this subject to their curriculum.  

 

Getting yourself exposed to enterprising activities throughout your university experience is highly recommended. Through such activities you are likely to acquire transferable skills which will be beneficial to you regardless of the discipline you’re coming from or the professional field you’re looking to get into.

 

Until next time,

#ThinkAskAct

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