Entrepreneurial University of the Year Announced

23 10 2008
Nottingham winners collect their Award.

Nottingham winners collect their Award.

The University of Nottingham has been named the first ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008. Ian Robertson, Chief Executive of the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship, praised the success of Nottingham and also of Coventry, which was a close second and so was Highly Commended in the category.
“Choosing a single successful university was very difficult,” said Ian Robertson, “but entrepreneurialism was a clear and visible part of Nottingham’s culture. A very difficult decision was eased by the breadth and depth of that entrepreneurial culture at the University, from senior management through to staff and the student societies.”

Professor David Greenaway, the University of Nottingham’s new Vice-Chancellor, said: “Entrepreneurialism has always been embedded long-term at this university, reaching back to the work we have done with Boots for over a century. What pleases me most about this award is the way it reflects how our students embrace the qualities of the entrepreneur.

“At this point in time, such approaches to life and work are particularly important. In the past six weeks we have gone through an economic upheaval that happens perhaps once every 100 years. Part of how we react to this will be about individuals taking the initiative by being entrepreneurial. Higher education can contribute significantly to that sustainable future.”

“Coventry University impressed us tremendously as well,” said Ian Robertson from the NCGE. “Under the leadership of its Vice-Chancellor, enterprise has been placed at the strategic heart of the institution. Everyone who works there has a part to play in Coventry’s transformation and it is clearly investing in staff development – as well as taking a completely fresh look at how to support the enterprise needs of the world beyond the University.

“Coventry has a long history of working with local and regional stakeholders – government, the business community and local entrepreneurs – and the University is now developing an increasingly international perspective.”

Professor Madeleine Atkins, Vice-Chancellor of Coventry University, said: “Enterprise is core to everything we do – regionally, nationally and internationally – so it is immensely satisfying to gain recognition for our commitment to entrepreneurial activity by being ‘Highly Commended’ in the Times Higher ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ category.

“We have developed new programmes and introduced new staff posts to ensure that enterprise runs through every strand of our activity for all staff and students – and our recently launched Institute for Applied Entrepreneurship brings together our business support initiatives for students, alumni and the community for the first time.”

The NCGE was delighted to sponsor the Times Higher Education Award for Entrepreneurial University of the Year 2008. Entrepreneurial universities are vital if we are to sustain the UK’s economy and society. Put simply, an entrepreneurial university is a place where entrepreneurship is part of the fabric of the institution.

This new Award attracted 34 entries, the highest number ever for a new category at the prestigious Times Higher Education Awards. It demonstrates growing levels of entrepreneurialism throughout the higher education sector and the increased seriousness with which graduate entrepreneurship is being taken.

An entrepreneurial university is characterised by a number of key factors:

  • strong leadership that develops entrepreneurial capacities for all students and staff across its campus;
  • strong ties with its external stakeholders that deliver added value;
  • the delivery of entrepreneurial outcomes that make an impact to people and organisations;
  • innovative learning techniques that inspire entrepreneurial action;
  • open boundaries that encourage effective flows of knowledge between organisations;
  • multidisciplinary approaches to education that mimic real-world experience and  focus on solving complex world challenges;
  • and the drive to promote the application of entrepreneurial thinking and leadership.

All of the shortlisted universities have demonstrated these characteristics but the extent to which entrepreneurship is nurtured in UK higher education institutions as a whole varies.

An NCGE study – Enterprise and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education – mapped the provision of enterprise and entrepreneurship in higher education in England last year, achieving a 96% response rate from 127 universities. On average the student engagement rate in enterprise and entrepreneurship in English universities is 11% so there is clearly opportunity for growth.

Business and management schools lead the way, with 61% of students exposed to enterprise and entrepreneurship opportunities. Other subjects fall a long way behind.

Overall, fewer than 50% of universities showed defined entrepreneurial characteristics – such as having an explicit enterprise policy, a pro vice-chancellor with responsibility for enterprise and entrepreneurship, staff development, curricula development, incubators for students, visiting entrepreneurs, start-up funds, and student enterprise clubs.

However, steady improvements are being made and the picture is healthier than it was a decade ago. Many universities already offer an impressive and sophisticated array of entrepreneurship development activities, but it is not always clear which institutional models and approaches really provide a sound platform for creating and sustaining the ‘Entrepreneurial University’.

The NCGE’s work is designed to help universities develop and embed these models and approaches. It actively identifies the practices that support effective entrepreneurship development and encourages institutions to build their capacity for this. The organisation also offers professional educator development and FlyingStart initiatives working directly with student and graduate entrepreneurs to support them in developing their businesses.

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