8 February 2014 - 10:26 am

USE Academy: a very enterprising journey

You might not have noticed, but the curricular team here at USE have been a bit quiet of late. What have we been up to? Well, a number of different projects, but the one I really wanted to talk about today is the launch of the USE Academy.

For a long time, we’ve been playing with the idea of setting up some kind of vehicle by which we could provide the staff of the University with opportunities to engage with professional development activities about enterprise education. We had the idea that the most sustainable way to make the curriculum more enterprising for students would be to enable and empower staff themselves to implement changes.

So we made a plan. Quite a complicated, formal plan, with ‘fellowships’ at different levels, assessments, accreditation, portfolios, and all sorts. And we thought it was pretty fantastic. But like any enterprising venture, an idea is worth nothing if your customers haven’t validated it (right Sam?).

Our next step was to set up some focus groups with our intended ‘customers’ – staff of the university. As we went through those four hours of conversations, we slowly watched our wonderful plan crumble to pieces, pulled apart easily by the people we were talking to. ‘Ouch’ indeed, but also: ‘Oooh’! ‘Ouch’ because we’d spent a lot of time thinking about and planning our initial idea and it was tough to realise staff didn’t necessarily think it was that wonderful. ‘Oooh!’ because once we’d got over that, and once our conversations had progressed, what emerged was much more exciting.

Our initial idea was stripped bare, divested of all bells and whistles. What we now had in our hands was something that seemed much more raw and powerful. Something that staff told us they wanted, not what we thought they wanted. And so, the USE Academy was born.

The USE Academy provides staff with:

  • Continued Professional Development (CPD) opportunities in the field of enterprise education
  • Best practice events
  • Forums for discussion of relevant topics in enterprise education
  • Support for disseminating their best practice
  • Support to access and attend national-level training and development opportunities in enterprise education

And most importantly, the thing that came out on top in all our discussions with staff…

  • Opportunities to build and develop networks with staff trying out different approaches to enterprise education

Gone are all the formal trappings of the Academy that we had first envisioned. Now we have the room and the freedom to really support staff in what they want to learn and achieve. The staff we spoke to told us that what was most important to them was the chance to meet and learn from other educators. Simple. They didn’t want titles, assessments, portfolios and so on. I don’t know about you but I find it terrifically exciting that our staff are so dedicated to making sure our students have the best opportunities in their education!

Of course our customer validation won’t stop there. As we launch and develop the academy, we’ll always be asking staff for feedback. The Academy will most likely change and evolve, like any exciting new venture. So please, if you do have any suggestions for us about how we can improve our offer, do get in touch, you can find the contact details for the curricular team here:


The inaugural event of the USE Academy will be held on the 6th March, from 4-6pm here in the Enterprise Zone. The topic will be ‘engaging external partners with curriculum delivery’ – we’ll be hearing from staff who already do it, staff who want to do it, and staff who want to do it better. And not only that, because it’s our launch event, we’ll be providing of wine and nibbles and giving everyone a chance to network and meet other innovative educators.

If you want to find out more about the USE Academy, please visit our academy web pages at: http://www.shef.ac.uk/enterprise-education/usea

If you want to register for the event on the 6th March, please click here: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/use-academy-external-engagement-event-tickets-9745841073

One comment

  1. Rob Ryan says:

    Well done everyone involved in this! Sounds great and good to know more students like me will have the chance to encounter enterprise in their modules 🙂

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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.