Group of Ideas to Enterprise PGR student in discussion

What is Enterprise Education?

Enterprise education is defined as:

‘…the process of equipping students (or graduates) with an enhanced capacity to generate ideas and the skills to make them happen.’

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) for Higher Education 2012
Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education: Guidelines for UK Higher Education Providers

Enterprise education is not business studies. Entrepreneurship is only one of the possible outcomes. Instead, enterprise education aims to equip students with a set of capabilities which they can apply to whichever context they choose; the capability to take action, effect change, create value, and lead.

Why is enterprise education important for our students?

‘We are trying to tackle the 'wicked' problem of preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist, using technologies that have not yet been invented, in order to solve problems that we don't know are problems yet.’

Norman Jackson 2008 – The Wicked Problem of Creativity in Higher Education

Over the last five years, the goalposts have moved for our students. They will move again, possibly soon. Education is changing, the economy is changing, technology is changing, and the world of work is changing. Our graduates, more than ever, need the skills to be adaptable, dynamic leaders, able to seize opportunities and drive innovation.

The University of Sheffield – at the forefront of national policy

The University of Sheffield has long believed in the value of providing opportunities for students to develop and enhance their enterprising capabilities. In recent years, our belief has been strengthened validated by an increased emphasis on enterprise education in national policy, especially in relation to Higher Education.

In 2009, the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship (NCGE, now NCEE) published the report ‘Towards the Entrepreneurial University’, authored by Professor Alan Gibb. The report emphasised the need for students and graduates to engage with enterprise in order to prepare for a world of:

‘much greater uncertainty and complexity involving: frequent occupational, job and contract status change; global mobility; adaptation to different cultures; working in a world of fluid organisational structures; greater probability of self-employment; and wider responsibilities in family and social life’.

He set out a model for embedding an enterprising culture in HEIs, which included the idea of ‘creating the opportunity for practice of key entrepreneurial behaviours such as: opportunity identification and evaluation; relationship management development and effective networking; intuitive decision making and risk assessment; initiative taking; commitment to see things through; and ‘feeling’ ownership and entrepreneurial learning’ (our emphases).

In 2012, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) commissioned Professor Sir Tim Wilson to investigate and make recommendations on how businesses and universities could work together to become key contributors to a thriving knowledge economy. The resulting report (Wilson 2012) emphasised the need for universities to engage with enterprise education and recommended that universities

‘should reflect on the strategies they use to ensure that students have the opportunity to develop enterprise skills both through the formal curriculum and through optional study or practice, and reflect on the integration of enterprise education in the professional development programmes for academic staff’.

At the same time the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) published its guidance document ‘Enterprise and entrepreneurship education: Guidance for UK higher education providers’. This guidance focused on the pedagogy of enterprise education, and how educators could implement change in their delivery and teaching to increase the enterprising potential of their students.

The University continues to strive to embed a culture of enterprise into the way students learn, both within and outside of the curriculum. In 2012, the University Senate approved the Enterprise Education Mission, Vision and Strategy, which sets out its aims in detail.


Gibb, A. 2005. Towards the Entrepreneurial University: Entrepreneurship Education as a Lever for Change. National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship, UK.

Jackson, N. 2008. Tackling the wicked problem of creativity in Higher Education. (last accessed 25/07/2014).

QAA 2012. Enterprise and entrepreneurship education: guidance for higher education providers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. Gloucester.

The University of Sheffield 2012. Enterprise Mission, Vision and Strategy 2012-2016. The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.

Wilson, T. 2012. A Review of Business-University Collaboration. Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, UK.