Entrepreneurial university is one of the latest development initiatives in tertiary education globally. The idea behind the initiative is to train students to go a step further and turn their scholarly research into business ventures which ensures that they don’t become job seekers, but job creators to develop the economy. Ugo Aliogo reports
The falling standard of education in the country has remained an issue of concern among stakeholders. Their argument is that over the years successive governments have paid lip service to the revival of the sector, especially in terms of sufficient budgetary allocation, building of skilled manpower through training and re-training to boost sectorial performance and equipping of graduates with the needed skills sets to make them become successful entrepreneurs, rather than job seekers.
The stakeholders further argued that the country’s university education has remained largely theory-based than more practical oriented; adding that it has not evolved despite growing trends in tertiary education internationally “and does not give the graduate sufficient skills to compete favourably in the marketplace.”
In the 21st century, university education has evolved from the theory- based approach to what is known as entrepreneurial or innovation university. It is a new development that is emerging globally to change the trend of universities churning out graduates that cannot find jobs and increase the unemployment growth index. This new university education places emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship. It takes the graduates through the rigours of running a business.
According to Africa Renewal, hastened by globalisation and increased competition, the industrial mode of production has run out of steam in many countries and the same applies to post-secondary education, with its emphasis on theory over practice. Far more emphasis is needed in practical experience.
It also stated that this entrepreneurial phenomenon is not limited to business schools, but also occurs in universities specialising in fields such as agriculture, science, medicine and information technology.
The Africa Renewal noted that Stanford University is one of the US universities quick to embrace the innovation and entrepreneurship model; and in 2015 the university opened two centres in Ghana and Kenya to offer internship programmes to young entrepreneurs. Others include Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, the University of California and the University of Wisconsin.
Brazil, China, Europe and North and Latin America and newly industrialised countries have embraced the entrepreneurship education.
“One of the objectives of the Africa Union’s (AU) agenda 2063, which is Africa’s development blueprint for the next 50 years is to reposition the continent as a strategic player in the global economy through improved education and the application of science and technology in development. Achieving these objectives will require aligning education, research and innovation with long-term socioeconomic objectives. So far, only a couple of universities in Africa have embraced innovation and entrepreneurship. Stellenbosch University, South Africa has built and launched a satellite as one of its innovations.”
A Senior Lecturer, Harvard Kennedy School of Practice International Development Practice, Professor, Calestous Juma, was quoted as saying that innovation universities benefit not only students, but also the institution.
He explained that creating such university would broaden the base for funding innovation by enabling specialised actors and industry to design and operate new universities using their own budgets, adding that it would reduce the need to rely on funding from ministries of education.
According to Africa Renewal, “the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology pioneered in tissue culture bananas. Tissue culture is a method whereby plants are produced from roots, leaves or stems in a laboratory in great number to increase yields. The university also recently created the Nairobi Industrial and Technology Park in a public-private partnership with the Kenya’s Ministry of Industrialisation and Enterprise Development to facilitate uptake of university research results by industry players. It will also provide a shopping mall space to incubated firms started by the students.”
Back home in Nigeria, some tertiary institutions are embracing the entrepreneurial university in order to respond to local needs and challenges, one of such is the American University of Nigeria (AUN), a development university that aims to improve the country’s entrepreneurship drive in the School of Business and Entrepreneurship.
In an interview with THISDAY, the Dean, School of Business and Entrepreneurship, Professor Attahir Yusuf, said the institution is development oriented and places emphasis on practical through entrepreneurship. Therefore he said the students are given the basics to be entrepreneurial.
He added that the university trains the students in the subject of entrepreneurship and uses its teaching methodology to encapsulate varieties of systems, adding that apart from the class work, the students are given case studies and simulation which reflect marketplace situation, “then we go to the next stage of encouraging them to set up and run a business.”
Yusuf explained that annually, the students develop business plans, and the school organises a competition to select the best two business plans, thereafter the university provides seed capital for the two selected business plans.
He said there are a lot of success stories with some individuals running their businesses in town, adding that individuals approach the university to buy some of the business ideas in order to start running them.
“Apart from setting up a business, we also have a course known as Managing a Growing Business, so the students that graduate from that course take over that business and then run it. This is how we bring entrepreneurial orientation into our students because we are developing students here not to go and work for somebody, but to think of working for themselves because we believe that working for yourself is how the economy grows and jobs are created, then society is impacted.
“We emphasize on equipping our students to have the capacity of working for themselves. We have a lot of success stories and some are running their businesses in town. Some people approach us that they want to buy these businesses, then they buy and start running them.
“As a university, we don’t only provide knowledge but to also develop a good understanding and provide resolution systems through research. We have students who have projects and businesses they are involved in. These students also go to communities to research on businesses and find out the type of problems businesses have, debate among themselves, consult with us, and develop a solution for these types of businesses. They take up those businesses and mentor them. Our students see problems in businesses and with our support they have the capacity to develop solution mechanisms. They go back and apply those lessons on those businesses.
Yusuf added: “A lot of our small businesses here don’t have the fundamental understanding of professionalism. As part of efforts to assist these small businesses, we bring them into our campus sometimes and organise a business seminar for them and try to make them understand professionalism in business. We give our students elements of planning, marketing and finance management; but most importantly the human resources and management of their organisation so that they can organise their businesses. We receive positive feedbacks from them.
“For us as a university, what we need to do is to develop people that have agriculture business orientation they would be in position to run a farm as a business. We provide enlightenment of business management, financing and understanding of what agriculture is and how to manage agriculture businesses. That is why we are introducing a degree programme known as Agriculture-Business Management.”
Also lending his voice to the discourse is the founder, Universal Learn Direct Academic Limited, Mr. Gbola Oba, who noted that most graduates lack the requisite middle level skills set which successful societies are built on.
He argued that it would be imperative to fundamentally identify some relevant skills sets especially from the university system which would make the society to function better, adding that there is need for proprietors of private universities to ensure that their students acquire some important computer software rｑdevelopment certification to ensure that they are able to compete favourably in the marketplace.
Oba explained that beyond acquiring skills in software development, there is also need for students to acquire skills in plumbing, carpentry, electrical installations and other areas. “Once a student is acquiring these skills, he/she is using them at free labour to build equity.”
He stated that conventional university education can be placed side-by-side with a well-structured programme on entrepreneurship; therefore the federal government should take a cue from other countries where the practice is in vogue.
“Skills acquisition is very important in tertiary education because any skilled human being is a potential entrepreneur and this can trigger an entrepreneurial value chain. The idea is very sustainable. In the last few years, policy makers in the education sector have emphasised the need for graduates to be more entrepreneurial minded because there are no jobs in the marketplace.
Some universities such as University of Ife, University of Lagos and Lagos State University (LASU) have created a department dedicated to the study of entrepreneurship. “These universities have also ensured that students are groomed in basic entrepreneurship subjects that will help them have an understanding of an entrepreneur and how to succeed as an entrepreneur. In Lagos State, there is the Ministry of Wealth Creation which primary duty is to groom young unemployed graduates to acquire skills and empower them. We need to be more aggressive about the issue of entrepreneurship in secondary schools and universities.”