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Research Project

Moving from entrepreneurship theory to practical entrepreneuring: what and how we teach and its impact on student experience of entrepreneurship education

Dale Heywood and Alan Southern

This research sits at the apex between education and entrepreneurship and is focused on the teaching and learning of students studying entrepreneurship and how this impacts on their lives.  We seek to develop greater insight into entrepreneurship education with clear feedback into our teaching and student learning, and also to consider the extent to which the interaction between learning about entrepreneurship and the practice of enterprise and entrepreneurship influences their appreciation of both.  This will help us understand what students tend to do when they have been through a formal educational process and then seek to engage in enterprising activity, or what we would call ‘entrepreneuring’.

The proposition therefore lies in the transition from critical entrepreneurship, what is taught, what is learnt and then, what is to be done.

The research questions for this work are:

  • How do we encourage entrepreneuring within the curriculum and through extra curricula activity, while maintaining academic credibility?
  • How do we maintain academic standards while encouraging practice in the form of entrepreneuring?
  • What type of impact will this have on the student experience, following a combination of academic theory on entrepreneurship and entrepreneuring in practice?

The research is focused on students studying entrepreneurship on the MSc Entrepreneurship programme.  We envisage that over time, three years initially but up to five years, we can incrementally build up a knowledge base that will provide a greater level of understanding not only to support programme development but to also inform the academy in the field of entrepreneurship education.

The approach to be undertaken is qualitative and will consist of interviews with students during their studies and towards the end of their studies.  The types of information to be collected from students will include data held by the University, in terms of the profile of participants and then through discussion to consider their views on the potential impact of the programme and their intended activities thereon in.

The project will begin in early 2015 and will be reviewed annually.

News Archive 

December 2014

Two colleagues were asked to provide a review of the intended research and their comments, received on December 3rd 2014, are provided below. 

Professor Andrew Popp:

Proposed research project: “Moving from entrepreneurship theory to practical entrepreneuring: what and how we teach and its impact on student experience of entrepreneurship education” (Staff: Dale Heywood and Alan Southern)

The proposed research lays out what should be a valuable and worthwhile project seeking to build our knowledge and understanding of how the teaching and learning we provide impacts students, specifically in their subsequent enterprising activity. This knowledge and understanding will be valuable in and of itself, contributing to pedagogic and curricula development. However, it also has the potential to make a contribution to entrepreneurship studies, connecting enterprise education to entrepreneurial outcomes. There is a readily available cohort of subjects for study (students on the MSc Entrepreneurship programme), about which much valuable data has already been captured. Given the duration of the proposed project and the ongoing enrolment of students on the programme (and the availability of alumni structures to help track exiting students perhaps?), a rich longitudinal data set could be assembled relatively quickly. 

In summary, this is a worthwhile and feasible proposal with the potential to add value in several ways. I see no specific ethical concerns and am happy to endorse the project.

Dr Benito Giordano:

Thanks for sending through the research proposal, which I think is both interesting and important both for teaching as well as research. In terms of my feedback, below are some points for you to consider:

  • the international dimension should be explored more detail: a decent number of the MSc students are not from the UK and this should be taken into account in terms of their education style, cultural views on entrepreneurship, stage of economic development of the origin countries etc etc;
  • the longitudinal qualitative approach will reveal some of interesting dynamics at work. I would also include interviews with key stakeholders involved in the process - e.g. lecturers, administrators, enterprise champions, entrepreneurs involved in the courses etc;
  • scope of the research - one idea would be to consider widening the scope of the research to include undergraduate programmes not just the MSc. This would provide for some interesting comparisons to be made on a range of issues. Also, you could consider exploring the role of "entrepreneurship" type activities in a  selection of other modules. Thinking of the proliferation of "dragons den" type activities in a range of courses. Perhaps students on those courses are just as keen to develop their own businesses but you would not be able to explore those dynamics.

SME Internationalisation

Prof. Frank McDonald and Dr. Nick Papageorgiadis  are currently working on a project that submitted evidence to the House of Lords Small and Medium Sized Enterprises Select Committee on SMEs and Exporting. Following from the submission to the Select Committee the team conducted a review of 27 surveys on the obstacles to SME internationalization and some 30 papers on government policies to help SMEs to manage more effectively these obstacles. The review covered material from the UK,  USA , EU and a major study from the OECD. The review identified shortcomings in the surveys that indicate that understanding of the major obstacles that SMEs face is probably weakened by the defects in survey coverage and construction. Using the data from the surveys an ordinal ranking of the major obstacles was derived and this was matched with the policy stances in the UK, USA and EU. This evidence is referred to in the final report from the Select Committee

The results indicate that the obstacles SME face in developed economies have strong commonalities, but some important differences are apparent in policy responses by government agencies . The next phase of the programme involves a review of the academic literature to examine whether academic research is adequately addressing the need to help SMEs to management more effectively their internationalization processes. This work is being developed in collaboration with BRADFORD CENTRE FOR INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS AND FINANCE (BCIBF). This work is centred on the major obstacles (and polices to overcome them) that SMEs  face when  exporting.

Prof. Frank McDonald and Dr. Nick Papageorgiadis  are also working on issues connected to intellectual property protection and internationalization by SMEs.

Any Place for Business? Young People and Enterprise

Dr Alan Southern from the University of Liverpool Management School and colleagues Dr Caroline Parkinson and Professor Carole Howorth from the Bradford School of Management have been successful in obtaining an ISBE RAKE (Research and Knowledge Exchange) fund award for research into enterprise in low income neighbourhoods. The research titled ‘Any place for business?’ is a qualitative study building on previous work undertaken by the academics, and is to be focused on young people in Bradford and Liverpool.

One of the aims of the research is to provide a voice for young people about what can be done locally to support them to be enterprising.  This is a relevant area for study because often ‘young people’ get bundled together as if they are a homogenous group and we lose sight of how they are individuals who will be central to our future – as parents, as workers and as entrepreneurs.
The research will also consider how where a young person lives affects their attitudes and aspirations. For instance, does where you live affect the way you think about enterprise? Does growing up in a certain neighbourhood foster different sets of views, experiences and support networks than in another neighbourhood? And what are the most important local issues are that need to be addressed to help young people achieve their enterprising potential?
The work will include a series of workshops with young people and local stakeholders and a selected number of interviews in both Bradford and Liverpool.  The researchers hope their research will help develop a fresh and relevant set of indicators of ‘enterprise readiness’ that can be used by local agencies who work with young people and will inform policy makers on how to develop enterprising futures in different areas. 

The award is supported by Barclays Bank and the Economic and Social Research Council and is one of only two to be provided by ISBE in 2013 RAKE call. 

For further information on this work contact Dr Southern via email:

Bootstrapping and Social Enterprises

Dr Dilani Jayawarna from the University of Liverpool Management School has been successful in completing an ISBE (Institute and Small Business and Entrepreneurship) RAKE (Research and Knowledge Exchange) project jointly funded by ISBE, ESRC, Barclays Bank and NCGE. The research titled ‘Social Enterprise: bootstrapping as a strategic response to recession’ is a qualitative study that directly addressed the survival and growth strategies of new and young firms theme of the ISBE RAKE call. This study aimed to facilitate knowledge transfer and shape future enterprise policy and practice through an understanding of small social enterprise (SSE) bootstrapping in the recession, with particular emphasis on new and young firms. The study focussed upon factors affecting the reasons for, and choice of, bootstrapping activity within the sector and studied the bootstrapping mechanisms social enterprises uses and the managerial practices that enables these mechanisms. 

Agility & Supply Chain Management Centre (New ERDF grant £300k)

The Agility Centre has secured £300k of ERDF funding for Merseyside to assist SME’s in the region to develop growth and operational strategies around the management of the supply chain.  This funding extends by a further 12 months the current three year grant of £1.4M that the centre was awarded in 2011 to support 75 companies in the Northwest.  The extension was secured down the efforts of the Agility Centre team (Jenny Poolton, Buki Okoro and Malik Husain and led by Dr Hossam Ismail) who have exceeded the targets of the original grant in terms of companies assisted and jobs created.

Knowledge Transfer Partnership 

Hatton's Railway Models Ltd, Liverpool

The Agility Centre was awarded a £131k  KTP grant to work with Hattons's to develop a customer centric business model and culture for growth by adopting multi-channel online retailing and improving the efficiency of the new product introduction process.

Who Makes Money From Entrepreneurship?

“This time next year Rodney we’ll be MILLIONAIRES!”. Del Boy’s catchline might be fictional, but the idea that anyone can make money by running a small business is important in British society. Is it true?

Dr Dilani Jayawarna from University of Liverpool Management School and Dr Julia Rouse from Manchester Metropolitan University Business School have recently completed an ESRC funded research project that shows how entrepreneur earnings are affected by their backgrounds and family roles. jayawarnaetal

Our RESEARCH SUMMARY (in layman’s language and including implications for you and teaching notes) will be of interest to anyone involved in running or supporting small businesses: researchsummary

Our full technical RESEARCH PAPERS can be downloaded here: researchpaper1