Idea of the Entrepreneurial university

  • Knowledge as Intellectual property
  • Student as customer and student experience
  • New forms of business management styles
  • Digital economy and digital scholarship
  • External funding
  • Links to business
  • International
  • Intensification of academic labour
  • Loss of sense of community and moral purpose

And yet, in the moment when the idea of the university appears to have been completely undermined, one ideal has come to dominate: the idea of the entrepreneurial university. It is clear that there is an attempt to reconnect the ‘idea of the university’ around enterprise and entrepreneurship (Gibbs and Hannon 2008). The concept of enterprise makes a virtue out of risk, and brings confidence back to future planning through the notion of innovation.

The concept of the ‘entrepreneurial university’ was first elaborated by Clark in Creating Enterpreneurial Universities in 1998. In this book Clark describes the ways in which universities can escape from the overly restrictive funding schemes and administrative systems of the state funded higher education sector. He argues that they can do this through supporting and developing innovation within their own institutions and by forging partnerships with other entrepreneurial organisations. In this way not only is it possible to generate additional finance but at the same time stimulate the research agenda (Shattock 2009).

The entrepreneurial university emerged out of a series of political and economic policies in the 1980s that were designed to transform a society based on an over powerful and restrictive labour movement and a dependence on the Welfare state, to a society based on individual responsibility and the dynamism of the marketplace. At the beginning of this process universities as public institutions were subject to funding cuts, but by the mid 1990s universities came to be seen as prime agents through which these new enterprise policies could be established. A series of policy documents and Government White papers (Dearing, Leitch, White Paper 2003) in the UK, together with similar policy initiatives at the European (Bologna) and global level (Word Bank) confirmed this view of the idea of the university as the motor and dynamic for enterprise. This ideal of the university was further established through prescribed HEFCE policy frameworks and targeted funding streams based on a close working relationship with employers and industry.

But while enterprise was clearly based within an ideological political and economic project, influential voices in the sector have sought to define the entrepreneurial university in terms that are more acceptable to the academic community. Mike Shattock, a former Registrar at Warwick University, uses the concept of entrepreneurship in ways that point beyond a narrow concept of economic activity:

‘Entrepreneurialism in a university setting is not simply about generating resources – although it is an important element – it is also about generating activities which may have to be funded in innovative ways in response to anticipated and /or particular market needs or driven by the energy and imagination of individuals, which cumulatively establish a distinctive institutional profile. Entrepreneurialism is a reflection both of institutional adaptiveness to a changing environment and of the capacity of universities to produce innovation through research and new ideas ‘ (Shattock 2009 4).

What this means is that universities must find ways of ‘participative management that motivates the academic community not only to continue to commit itself to the fundamental tasks of research and teaching, but also to look outward, to be prepared to take risks – reputational and financial – and to engage in the broader range of activities that being entrepreneurial demands. At the heart of this lies the question of creating organisational cultures that are motivational rather than regulatory, that are competitive but respect academic values, and that are entrepreneurial, in the sense in which we have defined it, where the generation of activities which extend a universities traditional boundaries is encouraged and incentivised’ (Shattock 2009 206).

For Shattock this involves not only research, but the development of new teaching delivery methods to an increasingly diverse range of students across various sectors in an international market (Shattock 2009 5).

Nevertheless, the entrepreneurial university can be defined as an attempt to transform aspects of higher education into commercial and market driven activities. This includes charging student fees, a reliance on external funding, an emphasis on training for work and the development of different types of universities around levels of teaching and research. Associated with this is an emphasis on the commercial benefits of intellectual property, the rise of an audit and regulatory culture and the introduction of private sector management principles to subvert public sector values (Deem, Hillyard and Reed 2007; Ball 2007 ).

The result in terms of teaching and learning for the entrepreneurial university is a move towards a certain kind of technical and technological utility, within which education is limited to a very particular type of economic rationality. The result is an emphasis on competency and transferable skills based on notions of the knowledge economy, the information society, employability (McLean), and self employability ( NCGE). Consequently, there has been a change in how courses are delivered, with a growth in the number of work related teaching programmes that are work-based and part-time. In response to the changes has been a move to more problem based and collaborative approaches to teaching and learning to supplement the more traditional didactic approaches (reference).

A major feature of the enterprise university is that campus architecture is now seen as a means of delivering an institutional strategy (Kenney, Dumont and Kenney, 2006) and as an important marketing tool in increasingly market-oriented higher education system (Edwards, 2000: 5). The “iconic building” seems now to be a feature of every current campus master-planning project. (Temple 2007 30).

While the built environment is important for marketing the entrepreneurial university, the virtual environment has become increasingly important (Robins and Webster 2002). The ascendancy of the entrepreneurial university has occurred at the same moment as the emergence of new forms of technology and the world-wide-web. These technologies have allowed for real innovations in teaching and learning, enhancing the idea of experimentation that lies at the heart of the entrepreneurial ideal. This has allowed not only for new forms of teaching and learning but also new forms of universities, e.g., Phoenix. As a result of advances in what has come to be known as e-learning, universities have been able to establish new funding models and funding streams around new forms of distance and distributed learning, further developing the Open University’s ‘University of the Air’ by making connections between the Digital Economy and Digital Scholarship.

The interest in architecture connected with the interest in technology has created a real sense of new possibilities, and is providing the basis for the dynamic thinking that is now going into designing schools, colleges and universities of the future. This relationship between technology and the aspirations of the entrepreneurial university is encapsulated by the way in which DEGW conceptualizes the notion of the Learning Landscape:

‘This global information environment in which learners are immersed requires new perspectives and fresh approaches for campus planning. At DEGW we have been responding to this challenge by developing a “Learning Landscapes” approach. The Learning Landscape is the total context for students’ learning experience and the diverse landscape of learning settings available today – from specialized multipurpose, from formal to informal, and from physical to virtual. The goal of the learning landscapes approach is to acknowledge the richness and maximize encounters among people, places, and ideas, just as a vibrant urban environment does…campuses need to be conceived as “networks” of places and learning, discovery, and discourse between students, faculty and staff, and the wider community. And, especially in today’s tough economic climate, campuses need to use academic space more effectively as well as efficiently’ (Dugdale, S. (2009) Space Strategies for the New Learning Landscape Educause Review, vol 44, no.2 )

The rise of the entrepreneurial university has generated a critical response from academics, along with suggestions to ameliorate its perceived negative effects.

Slaughter and Leslie (1999), reveal the way in which academic activity has become increasingly orientated to the market, at the same time as it has experienced decrease in public funding. They argue these process have led to ‘a loss to the concept of the university as a community’ (22). They refer to these processes as academic capitalism.

Les Levidow (2002) calls for academics to adopt counter-measures by reasserting their professional prerogatives as experts in educational content, defending academic freedom against state interference and by developing alternative pedagogies which enhance critical citizenship.

Mclean (2006) argues that the idea of the university should be formed around issues of social justice. Students should be educated to be citizens that can influence politics and society and culture in terms of justice and reason.

Nixon (2009) and Scott ( 1985 ) call for a renewal by Universities of their sense of moral purpose ( expand).

Delanty (2001) calls for rethinking the idea of the university around the ‘knowledge society’, by which he means promoting the university as a space within which not just new forms of knowledge can be created, but more fundamentally new ways of knowing. He argues that this can be achieved by making the university the promoter of new forms of cultural and technological citizenship.

Further Reading

Ball, S. (2007) Education Plc: Private Sector Participation in Public Sector Eduction, Routledge, London

Bok, D. ( 2003) Universities in the Market Place: The Commercialisation of Higher Education, Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford

Clark, B. R. ( 2004) Sustaining Change in Universities: Continuities in Case Studies and Concepts, the Society for Research into Higher Education and the Open University Press, Maidenhead and New York

Deem, R., Hillyard, S. and Reed, M. (2007) Knowledge, Education and New Managerialism, Oxford University Press, Oxford

Dugdale, S. (2009) Space Strategies for the New Learning Landscape, Educause Review, vol 44, no.2

Gibbs, A. and Hannon, P. ( 2008) Towards the Entrepreneurial University

Levidow, Les (2002). Marketizing Higher Education: Neoliberal Strategies and Counter-Strategies, in K. Robins and F. Webster eds. The Virtual University? Knowledge, Markets and Management. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 227–248.

McLean, M. (2008) Pedagogy and the University: Critical Theory and Practice, Continuum, London and New York

Nixon, J. (2009) Towards The Virtuous University: The Moral Bases of Academic Practice, Routledge, USA

Scott, P. (1984) The Crisis of the University, Croom Helm, Beckenham and Sydney

Slaughter, S. and Leslie L. L. (1999) Academic Capitalism: Politics, Policies and the Entrepreneurial University, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore

Shattock, M. ( ed ) ( 2009) Entrepreneurialism in Universities and the Knowledge Economy: Diversification and Organisational Change in European Higher Education, the Society for Research into Higher Education and the Open University Press, Maidenhead and New York

Shattock, M. (2003) Managing Successful Universities, the Society for Research into Higher Education and the Open University Press, Maidenhead and New York

1.9 Where are we now