It was about 10 years ago that my wife and I played the slightly sneaky trick of presenting two almost identical papers to the HEA’s Business Management Accountancy and Finance Subject Centre (HEA-BMAF), and the Art and Design Subject Centre (ADM-HEA) conferences. Our message was straightforward; neither discipline had the required range of expertise to promote the full gamut of entrepreneurial learning competencies that they were attempting to develop.
At that time BMAF’s Entrepreneurial Learning Special Interest Group (EL-SIG) was in its infancy, and I was subsequently invited to develop it into a more interdisciplinary group. This was a brave move considering that I had come from the design disciplines, and also considering that the term ‘Design Thinking’ had yet to become known. As HEA’s Richard Atfield put it, ‘we know we need to change, and simply teaching business knowledge is no longer fit for purpose’.
By 2011 it had become clear that restructuring was coming to HEA, and with the support of Enterprise Educators UK the EL-SIG approached the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), at a specially convened meeting in Leeds Metropolitan University (now Leeds Becket University). Our aims at the time seemed a little outlandish, as we proposed a new interdisciplinary approach that would enable colleagues from any discipline to develop creativity, innovation and entrepreneurialism in their students.
After much discussing and debating, a team was formed and work commenced in earnest. In 2012 this new concept became a reality, and subsequently led to a journey that few of us could have ever envisaged. No longer were educators held back by definitional confusion nor a lack of clarity as to teaching and learning goals, but could work together to move the essential agenda forward. As an aside, another HEA / QAA guidance document on Education for Sustainable Development soon followed suit, and used this first approach to develop its framework.
To anyone who has engaged with this work, the definitional split between Enterprise and Entrepreneurship will be well known, as will the pathway development that takes learners through the progressive stages of awareness, competency, mindset and effectiveness; a journey mapped through both curricular and extra curricular interventions. Thematic sections led the learning and assessment strategies and for the first time, those developing curriculum could move past the previously ensnaring metric of simply asking about the number of business start-ups.
Five years on and after international interest such as that from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, who used it to map the development of their 2016 ‘de facto’ citizen’s competency framework ‘EntreComp’, it was time to revisit the work and gauge its impact. Notwithstanding the new National Occupational for Enterprise Educators Standards from the government recognized sector skills body SFEDI / IOEE and educator support such as the ETC Toolkit that had evolved through the initiative, plus two associated HEA reports, it was time to listen to the sector and revise the guidance so that it was up to date and reflected these related advances.
On 18th January this year we celebrated the launch of this new ground breaking document as hosts of the Royal Academy of Engineering, who now plan to develop specialist STEM guidance based on the document, which follows advice offered by the Prime Minister. With an authorial team of such breadth that it offers hitherto unimaginable consensus, and keynote speeches that ranged from Government experts to representations from the United Nations and European Commission, through to the views of students and alumni from entrepreneurial study programmes, the scene has been set for the next stages of development and enhancement.
The new QAA guidance for enterprise and entrepreneurship draws together and clarifies strands such as employability and enterprise, it indicates the supportive nature of enterprise education and the demands of education for sustainable development and offers insights into what a supportive institution should look like. As a Chinese translation of the 2012 guidance had been approved following requests from senior officials in Beijing, the Mandarin version was launched simultaneously on January 18th.
The HEA’s Employability Practitioner Expert Group and experienced partners are already working on new supportive literature and insights to help those interested in developing innovative and creative learners - through both enterprise and entrepreneurship education, so watch this space.
Of course none of this can happen without the support of informed educators who care about their student’s journeys beyond graduation, it requires connected teachers who support learning for life and provide insights into the changing nature of employment. Do have any experiences and insights to share? If so we’d love to hear from you.
Book your place on our upcoming Employability Symposium: An Enterprising Mind-Set for Employability on 15th May. To find out more click here.