UTS second in Australia for entrepreneurship education
UTS is now ranked second in the country for entrepreneurship education, up from ninth in 2015, in a new research paper evaluating entrepreneurship programs across universities in Australia.
To explore the current state of entrepreneurship education in Australia, and the distinctive approach of UTS, IEU’s Entrepreneurship Education Manager, Maya Marcus, discussed the research findings with Dr Martin Bliemel from UTS Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation, and co-author of the paper: Boom or bust? Embedding entrepreneurship in education in Australia.
Q: Broadly, what’s the current state of entrepreneurship education across universities in Australia.
A: In Australia, every university has an entrepreneurship program, some of them are on a smaller scale while others are larger scale, but every university recognises that there should be some offering for students to support them to become more entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurship isn’t a particularly important priority for most universities but for some universities, such as UTS, it’s a really important factor.
Q: What do you think it will take to have a cultural shift where students arrive at university with the expectation to gain skills in entrepreneurship?
A: I think it’s happening now. We see it with the high school graduates who are coming to UTS whose parents are recognising ‘I’ve had a pretty good job until now but even my job is on the line, so why don’t you go to university and get a core degree but also get something that distinguishes you?’. Now, we recognise that traditional career pathways work if you’re in a relatively stable area of employment, but a lot of areas of employment are being disrupted and so we need people to develop entrepreneurial attitude, to think innovatively, creatively, and pull together resources to make things happen that didn’t exist two years ago.
Q: What are some of the opportunities you’ve identified in Australian entrepreneurship education?
A: Australian students are known for their ‘gap year’ and willingness to travel. If you pair that with entrepreneurship education, then you get some exciting opportunities for Australian students to get entrepreneurial experience overseas, including hackathons and startup internships. When they return to finish their degree, that international perspective and those international connections ultimately make the economy and their startup ideas more robust.
Q: How well understood is entrepreneurship education? Is it just for people who want to be self-employed or start their own business? Or is it also recognised as a highly valuable as a mindset and range of skills for any career path?
A: The rankings don’t quite pick up on it but there are kind of two flavours of entrepreneurship programs. One is the specialisation like [UTS’] MBA in Entrepreneurship or the Honours in Entrepreneurship where the entire program is entrepreneurship. The other flavour is that you’ve got entrepreneurship content that adds value to a core degree, this reflects the university-wide imperative to encourage students to develop these entrepreneurial capabilities – It’s one thing to say you can be the world’s best engineer, scientist, computer scientist, lawyer, but you also need to understand the commercial context in which you’re doing your profession. So, the more you’re able to think entrepreneurially, the more you’ll be standing out amongst your direct peers. That layer of thinking entrepreneurially is something that UTS in particular is taking seriously. We don’t want to create entrepreneurs for entrepreneurship sake; we’d like all students to understand that there are a lot of benefits in terms of how you can create value. That will make you a more valuable employee, or will make you a more valuable employer - there are many benefits if you have that value creation mindset.
Q: UTS has climbed to number two in your studies ranking from nine in 2015. What is it about the UTS approach that is reflecting that rise?
A: Part of the growth of UTS, and the rise in rankings, is the sheer numbers we’re seeing. There are a huge number of electives that are directly or indirectly related to entrepreneurship. Similarly, we’ve seen a rise in the programs specifically dedicated to entrepreneurship. The MBAe and the Diploma in Innovation was not picked up in the 2015 rankings, and then there is the brand-new Bachelor of Entrepreneurship (Honours) in addition to all the electives and sub-majors that we’ve created as part of the Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation. Interestingly, we have seen a surge in co-curricular options across all Australian universities, including new incubators and accelerators. However, those were largely outside the scope of the study, which focussed more on for-credit options.
In that regards, UTS took a slightly different approach with the launch of UTS Startups just over a year ago. At UTS, we acknowledged that we already have incubators and accelerators – dozens of them actually – right here in the city and we should run programs that connect students to the most appropriate one, rather than replicate these initiatives. We have startups in fintech, edtech, foodtech – we can’t service all those verticals and sectors in one university, so instead we can connect students to the most appropriate. That connection outside the university ecosystem is tremendously important.
Q: How would you frame the scalability of this approach with UTS Startups?
A: With UTS Startups, what I’ve seen is the program is unwinding the selective cohort model (the university-based accelerator). If you have an application process where you get 200 students to apply and only take ten students through a very dedicated cohort, then you only reach ten students. That’s not scalable. We need to focus more on the front end of that funnel, and look at where are we going to reach thousands of students through workshops, through events, online modules, etc. to give them that really short exposures to entrepreneurship. That’s how you get scale. We can always guide them towards smaller, very specific cohort opportunities later.