Why should my institution get involved with student enterprises?

Student enterprises involve creativity, design, problem solving, original thinking and their practical application. By combining these aspects in a single activity, student enterprises become a rich source of learning, which is rewarding in itself and also enhances employability.

Through enterprise education, students gain a different perspective on their career options, and develop the confidence to establish their own business. Also, learning within a student enterprise boosts essential skills that employers say they need graduates to have: the ability to work flexibly, problem solving and creative thinking, initiative, self-discipline and teamwork.

Additionally, student enterprises can generate positive impact for an HEI. Graduate startups or spin-out companies lead to positive publicity, help to build credibility, and can forge new external relationships. The UK Department of Education's Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) recognises the value of enterprise and entrepreneurship, and makes specific reference to it.

What are the potential benefits of student enterprises?

A vehicle for knowledge exchange

With the imminent introduction of the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) for universities in the UK, student enterprises provide an effective way of increasing student engagement with knowledge transfer activities.

Support impact and reputation

HEIs can boost their Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) profile by demonstrating achievement against metrics such as extent of student involvement in enterprise and entrepreneurship and number, impact and success of graduate start-ups.

Support inclusivity and wider participation

For example, multi-disciplinary student enterprises provide a means of bringing together disciplines with a poor gender balance (eg engineering) and those in which the gender profile is more even (eg management, law).

Beautiful Canoe

Beautiful Canoe was set up in 2013 by academics at Aston University, as they had seen that there was a need to give students real experience of delivering software to clients and users.

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Genesys (2011–2017)

Genesys was designed as an opportunity for software engineering students to experience what it’s like in a real-work working environment as part of the academic curriculum.

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The Sheffield Startup Summer

The Sheffield Startup Summer provides students with an opportunity to focus on practising, and reflecting on Lean Startup processes over three weeks.

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How can I get involved?

There are many different models for student enterprises, and you can find out more about those on this website. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Should you have a coherent institutional approach; for example, a centralised model which supports collaborative working across different disciplines?

  • Consider enterprise projects or placements, in which students set up their own businesses as learning experiments.

  • Set up courses in which students must set up and run an enterprise as part of a credit-bearing module.

  • Consider how multi-disciplinary or cross-institutional enterprises can enrich students' learning, by exposing them to a wider population of fellow learners.

  • Think about student enterprises in broad terms. For example, it needs to be a student company as such; it could also be a student consultancy in which students offer specialist advice or training to clients.

Interested in starting your enterprise?

The student enterprise hub provides various resources and tools to help higher educational institutions with setting up their student enterprise. Get in touch to find out more.