Within the context of increasing graduate and youth unemployment, the resources available at universities, the national drive for SMMEs and the need for third-stream income at universities, the imperative to drive student/graduate entrepreneurship has been growing steadily. Entrepreneurship in its different forms is an area of university development that has been under-served in the past, especially when graduate unemployment was not as prevalent. In response, a platform for Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) was established at the end of 2016 from within the University Education Branch of the Department Higher Education and Training.
The goals of the EDHE Programme are in keeping with the intention that the UCDP should enable an integrated approach to capacity development across three focus areas, namely student development; staff development and programme/curriculum development, i.e.
Goal 1: Student Entrepreneurship. Mobilise the national student and graduate resource to create successful enterprises that will ultimately lead to both wealth and job creation.
Goal 2: Entrepreneurship in Academia. Support academics in instilling an entrepreneurial mindset within all students and graduates through the offering of relevant knowledge, transferral of practical skills and the application of business principles to a specific discipline. This should take place both through the curriculum and through research.
Goal 3: Entrepreneurial Universities. Create a conducive environment that will enable universities to adapt strategically and embark on projects whereby third-stream income can be generated through innovative business ideas.
In the spirit of the University Capacity Development Programme (UCDP), the EDHE Programme is people-focused. It is intended to develop the entrepreneurial capacity of students, academics and leaders. The intention is for students to be more successful in terms of becoming economically active during and after their tertiary education.
Entrepreneurial activity during studies could enable students to generate an additional income and fast-track the process of becoming economically active. Upon graduation, students would be able to consider entrepreneurship as a career, either as a first choice, or as an alternative, especially if they have difficulty in finding employment.
The people-focused nature of the EDHE Programme extends to developing the capacity of academics and support professionals to deliver informed and relevant services in terms of entrepreneurship education. This would include equipping academics across disciplines to encourage an entrepreneurial mindset and culture, as well as subject-specific entrepreneurship education, delivered with confidence.
The EDHE Programme is positioned to make entrepreneurship education and training accessible for all students across disciplines. This is a much needed intervention that would better equip students to successfully participate in the economy upon graduation, regardless of whether they are employed or not.
In essence, student development, staff development and curriculum development are interlinked in terms of the EDHE Programme. High quality entrepreneurship programmes would benefit both staff and students. Better equipped and skilled staff would contribute to student entrepreneurship and more relevant academic programmes and research. Similarly, as students expand their entrepreneurship skillsets, staff would be motivated to invest in their own development and academic programmes.
The EDHE Programme spans across institutional and regional boundaries. It is aimed at addressing entrepreneurship development needs at individual institutions, while drawing together regional resources and efforts to the benefit of stakeholders on a national level.
This is a large and complex endeavour that requires multiple focus areas and much time. The good news is that most universities are already taking ownership of the problem and implementing initiatives. Add to this the fact that universities have access to their own resources, and it is clear that the main role the EDHE Programme is to provide strategic focus, create enabling environments, collaboration, partnering and unlocking what is existing.