23 August 2013 - 10:43 am

How I learned to stop worrying and love Enterprise Education

I promised part two of my epic journey through enterprise education (yes, I promised it a long time ago but a watched pot never boils eh?) and here it is!

In my last post I talked in general about what I have learned about the world of work since I started here 18 months ago. Now I want to talk a bit more about what I have learned about enterprise education through being one of the three Enterprise Learning Development Officers here (ELDOs, or PowerPuff Girls, depending on what mood we are in).

I have to confess, when I started here at USE, I knew a fair bit about Higher Education, learning and teaching, and curriculum design and development, but not an awful lot about enterprise. Like others perhaps from my sort of background (archaeology, arts and humanities), I wasn’t sure enterprise education was relevant to me. I wasn’t sure it was relevant to all our students. And in the curriculum as well? What was its place there? Was it just another trendy concept that would fall by the wayside after a few years? Would my archaeology friends think I was selling out? Becoming a corporate drone? What if I didn’t buy in to the concept? It would be a bit pointless doing the job then wouldn’t it? Would academics laugh at me? Wow, I was a worry-wart.

BUT, within about two weeks, I really did stop worrying and learn to love enterprise education. And here’s how/why:

  1. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: enterprise does not necessarily have to be about business, especially when it is in the curriculum. It’s not about being ‘corporate’. It’s not about being on the next series of the Apprentice. It’s about a set of skills that might lead to setting up a business, but might lead to other great things as well. It’s about enabling students to make their own path in life, seizing opportunities, taking a few risks, and not being scared of potentially failing. Wouldn’t we all want those skills, no matter what we want to do in life?
  2. Enterprise doesn’t have to mean exactly the same thing to everyone. Music students might think it is more relevant to think about freelancing or self-employment. Scientists and engineers might think in terms of commercialisation of their research. Business students might think of it as new venture creation, or even ‘intrapreneurialism’ (being enterprising within an organisation). This is perfectly ok. It doesn’t really matter what language we use, as long as we can articulate what skills we have and how they enable us to be effective in our chosen paths.
  3. Enterprise in the curriculum makes sense. Perfect sense! After all, you chose your particular course for a reason. Why should we make you do a ton of extra work? Wouldn’t it make more sense if you could learn all the same things about your subject that you normally would, but in a slightly different way? So, in Linguistics, you could learn about all the basic concepts, such as semantics and phonetics, but instead of writing an essay or sitting an exam, you could build a website to communicate these concepts to an audience of prospective students, learning vital skills in the process. Sounds awesome doesn’t it?
  4. Being enterprising doesn’t mean ‘selling out’. Students are rightly famous for being passionate about social issues, and lots of you have discovered that enterprise can actually be a sustainable way of addressing those issues, through social innovation and enterprise. Modules like our ‘Making Ideas Happen’, Architecture’s ‘Live Projects’ and Law’s ‘Freelaw’ can help you harness the skills you would need to make a real social difference. Its business Jim, but not as we know it.
  5. Academics didn’t laugh at me (well not for talking to them about enterprise education anyway)… Believe it or not, your lecturers really do want you to graduate with the best chances possible of being able to make the most of yourself in the future. They can see the value that enterprise education brings, and we are hoping that you, the students are beginning to do so too!
Generally pretty worried

Generally pretty worried

So, I really don’t worry about these things any more, and if you were worrying about them you can definitely stop now. We’re on it!

(Now I just worry about whether my skirt is tucked into my knickers when I leave the house, or whether I’ve left the iron unplugged, or whether I locked the back door, or whether there are twice as many grey hairs caused by worrying than there were last week…)

One comment

  1. liz says:

    Really interesting blog ali. I think many people are in your old situation but enterprise really is for everyone. However out of the power puff girls which one would you be?

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  • About the author

    Ali Riley

    I am one of the three Enterprise Learning Development Officers here at USE, and I work directly with the Faculties of Science and Social Sciences. My background is actually in archaeology - random I know - but I have always had a bit of a side-interest in how people learn, and now this has led me to this very rewarding role! I'm still to be found in muddy holes at weekends though... I'll be blogging about Enterprise Education, including news, events, success stories, and my experiences of working with academics to offer a great learning experience to students.