Exploring the ‘missing perspective’

This Enterprise Educators UK funded study proposed to address a void in our understanding of the effectiveness and impact of enterprise education by acknowledging the students' perspective of extra-curricular enterprise education. The aim of this study was to underpin the extra-curricular curriculum with research by exploring what entrepreneurial behaviours, competencies and capabilities students perceived they gained and developed from extracurricular enterprise activities. A comparison was made between students engaged I extra-curricular enterprise activities and a control group of students engaged in extra-curricular activities from outside the entrepreneurship discipline. The study was conducted over the period of a year (2015/2016) at a post 1992 university.

Enterprise educators toolkit for extra-curricular enterprise activities

The following are possible actions for enterprise educators to take in creating and developing their extra-curricular enterprise offer. These outcomes have been generated from the findings of the above research study.

Improve participant diversity: According to our study, the students whom were most likely to engage with extracurricular enterprise activities were female, in the second or final year of their degree programme, and studying in the Faculty of Business. The concentration of enterprise activities (both in and extracurricular) within business schools has been noted in prior studies (Carey and Matlay, 2011; Pittaway and Edwards, 2012; NCEE, 2014; Lilischkis et al., 2015). To encourage a more diverse group of attendees, activities need to be more widely-targeted, specifically advertising that they are suitable for students from any discipline or year of study. Specifically target programme leaders from disciplines that you might want to attract and ask them to promote and encourage attendance from their students.

Combine enterprise and employability: In our study, students had career-focussed expectations of extra-curricular enterprise activities. Prior studies have highlighted the value students place upon extracurricular activities in enhancing their employability prospects (Milner et al., 2016). Distinguishing enterprise, entrepreneurship and employability activities from one another can be difficult (Gibb, 2002), due to overlap in aims and activities (Sewell and Pool, 2010; Rae et al., 2012; Henry, 2013). So, for enterprise educators – is it beneficial to separate them out at all? Perhaps we should consider combining enterprise and employability.

Improve perceptions of entrepreneurial competencies: At the beginning of the University year, the control group in our study who were not undertaking enterprise extra-curricular activities, but extra-curricular activities outside this discipline area, rated their entrepreneurial competencies higher than those participating in extracurricular enterprise activities. However, there was a greater overall improvement in the perceptions of those engaged in extracurricular enterprise activities compared to the control group whom self-reported decreasing competency levels over the course of the academic year.

Students engaged in enterprise activities improved in their self perceptions across the majority of competencies bar networking, leadership, self-efficacy, increased confidence, interpersonal skills and risk-taking. Yet in the non-engagement groups, most competencies decreased. This strongly suggests that extracurricular enterprise activities are useful for improving students’ personal competencies.

Improve perceptions of entrepreneurial capability: In terms of entrepreneurial capability, the mean increased for both those engaged in enterprise extra-curricular activities and the control group. This indicates that extracurricular activities, whatever their focus, have the capacity to enhance students’ perceptions of their own entrepreneurial capabilities. Further investigation is now being undertaken to understand whether those engaged in extra-curricular enterprise activities have a better understanding of their entrepreneurial competencies.

Articulate competencies and capabilities: are we sure as educators what these terms mean to us? To the HE sector more widely? To our students? Do we want to measure learning gain in this manner? Can we measure learning gain in enterprise education? All these questions can inform the planning, implementation and evaluation of extra-curricular activities.

Workshop - Extra-curricular activities - Recognising the entrepreneurial value

On Friday 21 October 2016, a workshop was held at the Futures Entrepreneurship Centre at Plymouth University to discuss students’ perceptions of entrepreneurial competencies, behaviours and capability and the impact on our practice as Enterprise Educators. The following are statements from participants as to the impact of this workshop.

"Highly enjoyable opportunity to discuss extra-curricular entrepreneurship education which vastly improved my understanding of the views of others in this discipline area."

"Will take back that I should convey to students that there is more to get out of all extra-curricular activities…including entrepreneurial competencies!"

Research outputs from this EEUK funded study 

Beaumont, E, Preedy, S, and Stevenson, S (2016) 'What's in it for us?' – Students’ Perceptions of the Value and Impact of Extracurricular Enterprise activities in HE. Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Conference 2016, in Paris, 27 – 28 October 2016. Nomination for Best Paper in Enterprise Education Track.

Beaumont, E, Preedy, S, and Stevenson, S (2016) Extra-curricular enterprise activities-exploring the ‘missing perspective’. International Enterprise Educators Conference 2016, in Liverpool, 7-9 September 2016.

Beaumont, E, Preedy, S, and Stevenson, S (2016) 'What's in it for us?' – Student’s perceptions of the value and impact of extracurricular enterprise activities in HE. 3E Conference- ECSB Entrepreneurship Education Conference, in Leeds, 11-13 May 2016.