Future-proofing graduates: The role of entrepreneurship education
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:
Can you tell us a bit about your role?
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.
What is the importance for university students of having an entrepreneurial mindset?
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”.
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?
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.
And so many of those transversal entrepreneurial skills will probably remain constant, regardless of what the future holds.
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?
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