Entrepreneurship is one of the younger disciplines in education and one of the fastest growing disciplines. With this in mind, our Professor of Entrepreneurship Alex Maritz has done research into where the discipline is at and where it is going. He looked at challenges the discipline is facing, but also how entrepreneurship is taught in Australia.

Entrepreneurship – The facts

Let’s start with some figures. The 2017/18 Australian National Report from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) overall states a positive climate of the entrepreneurial activity in Australia.

  • 12% of the Australian adult population (18–64 years old) actively engaged in entrepreneurial activities
    • This equates to 1.8 million early-stage entrepreneurs
  • Australia’s profile of start-up activity (TEA) is particularly strong in the senior age groups.
  • Informal investment is strong in Australia, with the prevalence of business angels at about 4% of the population.
    • This equates to about 0.6 million informal investors financing entrepreneurial ventures in Australia.
  • Of the 1.8 million Australians engaged in starting new businesses, 38 percent or 690,000 were women.
    • This is high compared to other 24 developed economies included in the study.

There are some concerns as well. The fear of failure is slightly above the average of developed economies and youth entrepreneurship is lacking. Also, there is a high discontinuation rate of entrepreneurial activity in Australia, which provides an opportunistic platform for entrepreneurship education.

Challenges

Below are some of the challenges that entrepreneurship education is facing.

Trajectory 1: Why teach entrepreneurship?

The question is often whether entrepreneurship can be taught. According to Alex it certainly can be. Entrepreneurship education is about learning how to minimise risks to fail, which lowers the above-mentioned fear of failure, a great barrier to start a business. Interestingly, Universities of Australia mentions that more than four in five start-up founders in Australia are university graduates.

Trajectory 2: What is taught in entrepreneurship?

Teachers of entrepreneurship often speak from their own experiences, the risk associated with that is that their teaching is too much skewed towards their own expertise. A finance expert teaching entrepreneurship has a different take on entrepreneurship education than someone with a psychology background for example. This challenge can be tackled by viewing entrepreneurship as a process – from starting a business to exiting a business – and aligning a suite of subjects and courses to that process.

Trajectory 3: How to teach entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship education is about experiential learning, which is different from the traditional ways of delivering content such as lectures and tutorials. The move towards online learning also has shown to be a challenge. Entrepreneurship educators need to collaborate and network with other successful entrepreneurship educators, enhancing the scholarship of learning and teaching. These educators have to also update their knowledge and skills on the latest start-up nuances, such as blockchain, digital transformation and lean business models.

Trajectory 4: Outcomes of teaching Entrepreneurship

The only way to measure if people become entrepreneurs when they finish their degree, is their intention and efficacy to become successful entrepreneurs. In addition, entrepreneurs create employment versus seeking employment, adding not only to economic outcomes but social solutions.

Trajectory 5: Research in entrepreneurship

There are only two high tier entrepreneurship journals. Research in entrepreneurship has the aim to inform practice, but practitioners generally do not read academic research. Publications therefore should preferably happen in journals or magazines read by practitioners. The Harvard business Review is an example for this discipline to publish, although not an entrepreneurship focused journal.

Empowerment and transformation

Finally, entrepreneurial universities are not created overnight. According to Alex, if entrepreneurship is not one of the pillars or a strategic intent of the university, the discipline will not flourish. It has to be embedded into the entire university.  

Entrepreneurship education at LBS

The La Trobe Business School is in a transformative stage of entrepreneurship education, with recent research by Alex and Dr Quan Nguyen placing emphasis on the importance of empowerment and sustainable action to enhance the entrepreneurial university. LBS is one of the leading Australian higher education institutions in entrepreneurship education, evidenced by significant entrepreneurship ecosystems, leadership in entrepreneurship, active and impactful global partnerships, significant knowledge transfer, professors of practice, a successful incubator and associated university wide entrepreneurial initiatives.

Prof Alex Maritz with various staff members of the Department of Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Marketing