| 4 minute read

Future-proofing graduates: The role of entrepreneurship education

Elena Galán-Muros
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During the 2023 UIIN Conference, we invited Emily Davies, Head of Student Entrepreneurship at the University of Exeter, to discuss how their programs empower students to take their ideas from theory to real-world success. Join us as we discover the importance of fostering an entrepreneurial mindset and learn how the University of Exeter encourages a diverse student community to embrace entrepreneurship.

In this article, we summarise part of that conversation, but you can listen to the full interview in our podcast:

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Madeline Arkins:
Can you tell us a bit about your role?

Emily Davies:
I lead the extracurricular entrepreneurship activity at the University of Exeter. We have got two campuses, one up in Exeter and another in Falmouth, Cornwall. We deliver our programs for all students across all faculties, all disciplines and at all levels of study: From undergraduate through postgraduate and up to three years from graduation.

We run pre-incubation and incubation programs that are designed to enable students and recent graduates to explore, develop and test their ideas and hopefully try to launch new ventures.

Madeline Arkins:
What is the importance for university students of having an entrepreneurial mindset?

Emily Davies:
When there is so much uncertainty about what jobs might even exist in the near future, let alone the more distant future, having that entrepreneurial mindset is very important. It is about adaptability, confidence, creativity, self-advocacy and being able to feel empowered to recognize challenges and then look at how you could creatively address those challenges.

Adaptability and creativity are two massive things that are part of the entrepreneurial mindset and skill set”.

Madeline Arkins:
So much of what we learn and the jobs that exist today may not exist in five, ten years, and some jobs that we have never imagined will probably exist. How do the programs at the University of Exeter remain relevant in terms of the entrepreneurial offerings that they teach students?

Emily Davies:
I encourage our team to be aware of things that are coming through, particularly with industry trends and tech developments, but we also recognise that we can’t be experts about absolutely everything, It is important that we have a strong network of people that we can draw in to come and, whether it’s featuring at our inspiration talks or coming to give guest workshops as part of the incubator program, bring in different types of expertise, knowledge and insights.

With the students, for us it’s much more about developing them as individuals and the broad entrepreneurial skillset and mindset. That way, even if the idea that they are developing through the program does not work, they will have that toolkit to be able to develop another idea or to get some experience and then come back to doing something entrepreneurial in the future.

In that sense, we are trying to respond to where the students are, what they are interested in, and what types of business they think are going to be businesses of tomorrow”.

It is a two-way process: We are learning from the students, but we are also trying to make sure that we bring them the skills and expertise that they need.

Madeline Arkins:
And so many of those transversal entrepreneurial skills will probably remain constant, regardless of what the future holds.

Emily Davies:
Absolutely. I think they are quite transferable. There is so much value in the skills that you can develop. And even creating a practical, hands-on space within the university that is close to the real world, taking the students seriously, supporting them and giving them the chance to develop their ideas for real, has also been really valuable for the students.

Interested in more insights like this?

Minerva Project is a San Francisco-based education innovation company that is revolutionising higher education. You can now listen to Diana El-Azar, Senior Director of Strategic Communications at Minerva Project, talk about how they created the first the most innovative university in the world and their groundbreaking approach to education in our episode Revolutionising higher education: How Minerva Project is shaping the future.

UCD’s Innovation Academy is reshaping education for the fourth industrial revolution. Learn more about the importance of transversal skills and experiential learning in higher education and the need for inclusive and accessible education to bridge societal gaps in our episode Unlocking transversal skills with virtual reality at UCD’s Innovation Academy.

Stay tuned for the next episode on this series and don’t forget to follow us on your preferred podcast platform!

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