There was a time not long ago when an entrepreneur was considered a razzle-dazzle business magician who could virtually turn sand into gold, sell ice to Eskimos, and manifest brilliant life-changing ideas at will. They were the fortunate few visionaries who saw the future, launched inventions and charismatically attracted the spellbound masses to jump on the bandwagon. Times have changed, and entrepreneurs are no longer the rare-born achievers. Now they are bred at entrepreneur schools in major colleges and universities around the country.
Many students have resisted business studies in the past due to its reputation as a fairly boring (although potentially profitable) course. Young adults are often drawn toward something a little more stimulating, active or adventurous. Business acolytes, on the other hand, have disparaged arts and humanities as being airy-fairy at worst or pompous at best. It was only a matter of time before the two sides of the brain united: welcome to entrepreneur studies.
The dramatic growth of entrepreneur courses
An entrepreneur isn’t only interested in balancing the books, keeping records and collating data. They prefer to unleash their idea into the real world, test the business hypothesis in real-time, and invest energy and emotion into relationships at all levels of production, marketing and sales. The growth at the tertiary level has been astounding, with 90 percent of Australian universities now offering postgraduate entrepreneurship or small-business subjects.
The courses aren’t just an add-on for broader business studies either. Budding entrepreneurs can attain certificates, diplomas and master’s degrees, and many universities have their own entrepreneurship research centres. According to Colin Jones at the University of Tasmania Innovation Research Centre, entrepreneurs are a growing student market.
“Every university in the world is thinking about how they can expose more students across more disciplines to entrepreneurship … they recognise that it is too important to be seen only as a business subject,” Mr Jones said.
Students testing the waters
The paradigm shift is related to the rise of technology in everyday life. Accessibility of communications devices, applications, hardware, software and information has resulted in the need for an entrepreneur ecosystem that can rapidly translate and transform ideas into reality. Commercialisation of ideas now takes place at the student level long before graduation into the business field, and students are understandably excited at the prospect of testing the waters.
University based entrepreneur programs include:
- $10 million Wade Institute for Entrepreneurship at Melbourne University
- University of Sydney Incubate program for campus start-up ventures
- UNSW launching the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre in mid-2015
- Swinburne University planning to create an innovation precinct
- Macquarie University offering a Master of Social Entrepreneurship course
The trend toward entrepreneurship is also the result of an employment landscape where traditional employer/employee relationships have been superseded. Skilled professionals now work across businesses and industries as the need for their talents arises. Students no longer just want to apply for jobs – they want to create jobs.
The question remains for some, however, whether or not a genuine knack for entrepreneurship can be taught, or even if a university is the right place to teach it. In a world where technology and business models change within the space of a few years, much of what students are learning could be outdated by the time they graduate. In any case, even with a solid academic grounding, a successful entrepreneur will also need to learn discipline, mental toughness and perseverance in order to succeed.