Universities Actively Engage in Entrepreneurship Education for Graduates

The twenty-first century graduate is in many respects an intrapreneur or entrepreneur. Routine work will be less and less his or her province. The graduate will have to be a problem solver under situations of uncertainty; playing the role of the troubleshooting Wolf, who steps into fix the awkward problem, in the popular Pulp Fiction movie. The graduate can of course seek the advice of colleagues while working in a team, and higher-ups in the hierarchy may have to take decisions formally, yet it is the graduate who does the ground work for those decisions and is familiar with their ins and outs. This is not discipline-dependent but pertains to all fields and activities. As soon as a problem becomes routine, it can be answered by a machine. Consider the manner in which a computer replies to your questions on airline or rail transport. All of the routine questions are, as a rule, answered automatically.

Problem solving not only concerns the use of knowledge, but also concerns the communication of the solution. It concerns the risks taken in one decision versus the alternative, as most problems in reality are more complicated than the mathematical one of the secondary school where you were presented with certain data, with a question, and only one answer for the problem that you can derive and confirm proudly by q.e.d. (quod erat demonstrandum). They involve considering the consequences of different decisions and looking for the balance in terms of risks and rewards.

These are some of the essential elements of entrepreneurship or intrapreneurship. Intrapreneurship is now a reality for many graduates: they have a great deal of responsibility and freedom to develop their own course of action in the organization in which they work, sometimes on their own, but often in groups. They have to think about alternative actions, using their problem-solving capacities in weighing the alternatives and the risks and rewards attached to them. Yet intra-, or the classical entrepreneurship (establishing and running a business of your own) is broader, as it involves knowledge not only about the product and the way it is produced, but also, however rudimentary, knowledge about finance, marketing, and sales.

Intraand entrepreneurship are keys to lasting economic development. For too long universities have stood with their backs to intraand entrepreneurship, not realizing that one can learn how to run a business more or less in the same manner as one can learn other things. Some students may be so qualified that they do not need the university training in entrepreneurship to run a business successfully. Conversely, some students may never learn it. But a major proportion of university graduates would be much better off if they had had the training and indeed were able to start a business. Excellent universities are highly engaged in entrepreneurship education in all faculties.

In US universities, the entrepreneurship of students and graduates has played a role in their history. The Stanford University graduates Hewlett and Packard who started their company in a one-car garage in 1939 are an early example. HewlettPackard emerged as a leader in technology and corporate culture, inspiring innovators and entrepreneurs around the globe. Europe also had a wave of entrepreneurship of graduates (in particular from technical universities) in the years following the Second World War, but this virtually ceased in the 1960s and 1970s. Since around 2000, however, there has been a revival, so that for example in the Netherlands, some 3 % of the students start their own company and some 5 % of the graduates do (in 2013). Government, organizations of employers, and universities all work together to encourage and facilitate students and graduates to become entrepreneurs.

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