Entrepreneurial Universities - Fact or Fiction?

In 2021, this interactive webinar addressed 3 Key Questions - 

1) Why do we need universities to be entrepreneurial?

2) Is the the entrepreneurial university fact or fiction? and

3) What needs to change if universities are truly going to become more entrepreneurial?

Our speakers were:

Alison Price, SHINE Project Founder, England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿

Adina Fodor, Guest Speaker, Romania 🇷🇴

Saidqosim Mukhtorov, Guest Speaker, Tajikistan 🇹🇯

The event was moderated by Paul Coyle, SHINE Project Founder, France🇫🇷

Registrations were received from participants in 13 countries:

England🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿, Ethiopia🇪🇹, Ireland🇮🇪, Jordan🇯🇴, Malaysia🇲🇾, Norway🇳🇴, Pakistan🇵🇰, Romania🇷🇴, Serbia🇷🇸, Scotland🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 South Africa🇿🇦, Switzerland 🇨🇭, and Tajikistan🇹🇯

Picture Credit: Pixabay

We began the session with a number of polls. A selection of the questions and the response of the participants follows:

  • Which universities do we need to be entrepreneurial? All 80% Some 20%
  • In an entrepreneurial university which academic disciplines need to be entrepreneurial? All 80% Some 20%
  • Which students need to have an entrepreneurial mindset? All 70% Some 30%
  • Which academics need to have an entrepreneurial mindset? All 70% Some 30%
  • What percentage of universities are truly entrepreneurial? Very high 0%, High 10%, 50:50 10%, Low 80% and Very Low 0%

Our polls showed that our participants saw a need for more entrepreneurial practice by staff and students in all academic disciplines. 

In addition, they judge that there are very low numbers of universities that can be classed as entrepreneurial. Participants noted that Universities often say they want to be more entrepreneurial but they don't put that ambition into practice.

Adina Fodor

Our first speaker was Adina Fodor who is Head of the Office for Cooperation Programmes and Scientific Secretary at Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj, Romania.

In the video clip below, Adina shares her thoughts, explaining the need for  universities to be more entrepreneurial, so that they can respond to challenges in society.  She cites the importance of universities providing the talent that will go on to discover breakthrough innovations. 

Therefore, students will need to develop problem-solving skills, learn how to work in teams and communicate with stakeholders, including potential investors. She also identifies the need to better understand the role of teaching staff in entrepreneurial education, and sees potential in students being seen as co-creators in the educational process.

When asked “What is it that makes a university entrepreneurial?” the responses of our participants included: 

  • Meeting the real needs of society - economic, social and cultural
  • Supporting students to create their own projects/startups
  • Offering the latest technology oriented courses
  • The vision and ability to empower individuals to be creative

When asked “Why do we need entrepreneurial universities?” participants mentioned the role of graduates in:

  • Making their contribution within business and industry
  • Playing their part in delivering change in regional ecosystems 
  • Using their knowledge how to help solve problems and add value to society

When asked “Entrepreneurial universities - fact or fiction?” responses included:

  • It’s a journey, and not every university has made a commitment to the change needed
  • There is a need for ‘roadmaps’ that would help universities to understand how to make progress on the journey to becoming more entrepreneurial

Saidqosim Mukhtorov

The second speaker was Saidqosim Mukhtorov the Head of the International Office at the Institute of Economy and Trade of the Tajik State University of Commerce, Tajikistan.  Qosim is also a freelance Business Consultant, mentoring and coaching startups at business incubators.  He has a focus on the internationalisation of higher education, and actions for regional development. 

In the video clip below Qosim builds from a focus on students, to think about the role of academics, the university as an organisation and ultimately how Higher Education can help a country, like Tajikistan, economically and socially, by developing young people. 

He identifies the need for a bolder interpretation of entrepreneurship in Higher Education so that there can be more innovation, increased value creation and greater engagement with global challenges.

He also identifies the challenges of undergoing the transformation from a more traditional  to a more entrepreneurial approach in Higher Education and reflects on the ability of academics to inspire young people to become entrepreneurs and to create change through disruptive technology. 

When asked “What needs to change if universities are truly going to become more entrepreneurial?” the responses of our participants included: 

  • A university needs to agree on a definition of the entrepreneurial university and then infuse that definition in its staff and students
  • There needs to be more openness to create change in all courses
  • Mangers need to give people permission to try to do things differently
  • It will be necessary to ensure that workloads are manageable, otherwise entrepreneurship will be seen by academics as just an additional burden
  • Everybody needs the right mindset

The Entrepreneurial Mindset Network, in its eZINE Vol 4 no3, published 10 recommendations to sustain and scale organisational capacity in Higher Education, which could lead to greater entrepreneurship and innovation.

These recommendations are also relevant to the ambition of having more entrepreneurial universities, to understanding the nature of the transformation required and how obstacles to change can be overcome.

Alison Price

Our third speaker was Alison Price, Principal Consultant & Co-Founder Enterprise Evolution, in the UK. Alison has extensive experience of delivering staff development programmes in China, UK and across Europe. She has developed institutional capacity through staff development programmes, mentoring & keynotes/workshops and delivering sector-level consultancy in support of the enterprise education agenda. Alison is also a valued member of the MINDSET LEAP (Leading Experts and Advisors Panel). 

In the video clip below, Alison emphasises the importance of universities creating benefits for students which in turn creates value for society. Drawing on her experience of staff development, Alison chose to highlight the vital role of university staff as the “face of the university” and how entrepreneurial academics can become important role models for students.  

Alison also notes that the staff need to be enabled by their organisations to take on these new roles that go beyond traditional approaches to teaching and learning.

For example, there is an expectation that academics will be connected to industry, and yet the supportive mechanisms often don’t exist, and instead people find themselves constrained within a heavily bureaucratic model.


A key question running through the discussions is “How should we go about organising the transformation from a traditional to a more entrepreneurial approach to Higher Education?”

There are many questions involved and actions to be taken. In which direction should we head? What actions are likely to work and which ones will probably fail? What should we set as a priority in the list of actions to be taken? How long will the journey take?

It is easy to think about what other people need to do eg the managers and leaders of an organisation.  We ask “why don’t they do what is necessary?” 

We should also turn these questions back on ourselves and ask what action we can personally take to contribute to moving things on.

When asked “What is the one action that you are going to take as a result of today’s discussions?” responses included:

  • Share the summary of this discussion
  • Use more storytelling to help people to understand the organisational change that is needed for a university to become entrepreneurial
  • Initiate the conversation, and get academics talking to each other, about how entrepreneurship can be incorporated into curriculum 
  • Find the facts, figures and research that will persuade colleagues to get on board with this agenda
  • Ensure that future xCHANGE events keep formulating recommendations for action that will be useful to all the members of the Network
  • Consider how members of the Network could co-create more thought pieces, policy position statements and How To Guides about the use of the entrepreneurial mindset in Higher Education

Paul Coyle

In the video clip below, Paul Coyle talks about the concept of Entrepreneurial Journey in relation to entrepreneurial universities.

In a second video clip, Paul discusses the ambition to have more universities to become entrepreneurial and the usefulness of two concepts from entrepreneurship, start up & scale up, in understanding how this ambition might be achieved.