The entrepreneurship education team of Birkbeck, University of London has been awarded the Vice Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.
The team collaboratively engages in developing and transforming Entrepreneurship Education at Birkbeck, through curricular modules (PG and UG modules), extracurricular activities (PIONEER programme), research centre activities (Centre for Innovation management Research) and external engagement activities (Help-to-Grow programme). Entrepreneurship education is considered key to improve employability and reduce awarding gap, among other benefits.
Professor Muthu De Silva submitted the application on behalf of the team comprising Prof Helen Lawton Smith and Doyin Olorunfemi, who lectures curricular modules and active members of CIMR, Jenna Davies, who delivers Extra-curricular activities – PIONEER programme, and Dr Pam Yeow, the initiator of Help-to-Grow Programme. The leadership and support offered by Prof Geoff Walters, Executive Dean, School of Business Economics and Informatics, to enhance entrepreneurship education at Birkbeck, are greatly acknowledged by the team.
Additionally, it should be noted that these members work very closely with other academics and external entrepreneurs and investors when offering these programmes, whose contribution is greatly acknowledged.
Our multidimensional approach – aimed at transforming the lives of those who aspire to become entrepreneurs – takes them through a process from understanding entrepreneurship, developing relevant skills, networks and business plans to establishing and growing businesses .
Figure: Approach to Entrepreneurship Education at Birkbeck
First, the aims of the curricular courses include learning to start and grow, from failure and to be part of entrepreneurial ecosystem. In all of the modules the guest speaker programmes (i.e. entrepreneurs, investors, and policy makers etc) afford students opportunities to engage with entrepreneurs and professionals who have real world experience. The innovative teaching techniques – including coaching, live case study sessions with entrepreneurs, opportunities to work with entrepreneurs to address real-life challenges, panel discussions with practitioners, guest speeches from industry representative, video case studies and problem based and flipped learning approaches – enabling students to learn and experience not only theory but also their practical applications, are incorporated.
Second, our Pioneer programme, an extra-curricular activity, has supported over 300 students in implementing the business plans developed during curricular modules. The Birkbeck Careers, Enterprise and Talent team have hosted Pioneer 1.0 (and latterly Pioneer 2.0) over the last 5 years, and these continuously provide excellent mentorship and coaching opportunities for our aspiring entrepreneurs which culminate in a yearly award.
Third, the Birkbeck Centre for Innovation Management Research (CIMR) is a college-wide research Centre. Launched in 2008, it undertakes international research focusing on multi-disciplinary academic, economic, societal and policy themes relating to the small and medium enterprises, entrepreneurial diversity and inclusion, innovation among others. Last but not least, Help-to-Grow programme serves external entrepreneurs, who apply to come onto our programme due to our geographical reach (central London as well as commuter cities of Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Essex) and our range of expert speakers drawn from our academic staff. This programme is designed to give those who either own/run an established small and medium size (SME) business, or are in senior leadership positions within such SMEs, new insight and practical tools in various aspects of running a successful small/medium sized business, including digital marketing, strategy, leadership, innovation, responsible business and financial management. The course lasts twelve weeks, is 90% subsidised by the government and is hybrid with online and in person sessions.