How entrepreneurial is your university – and why you should care

 Article synopsis

Developing an “entrepreneurial university” is becoming increasingly important to universities across the globe to impact on the success of their graduates and in positioning themselves in both the community and the market. The process of instilling an entrepreneurial mindset in students is not yet an exact science, but through understanding the entrepreneurship ecosystem within the university and its links to the outside world, we can obtain some perspective on what is being done and what requires further attention.

We believe that through using a mapping system (such as the UEEC mentioned here) and beginning to measure the entrepreneurial outcomes, rapid progress could be made in moving towards the objective.

The article contains 2 free downloads: an infographic summarising the key elements of the two foremost HE league tables measuring entrepreneurship and a tool that helps review and measure the entrepreneurial ecosystem inside your institution. Download them here.


Are you producing innovators who are changing the world?

Are your students seeking creative ways to solve the social problems of the community or the world?

Are your alumni running their own businesses - that they started thinking about while studying?

Do local investors recognise your institution as a source of new business creation?

As a vice-chancellor, professor, incubator leader or technology transfer head, these may not be the things keeping you awake at night ….. but perhaps they should be!

The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship defines the entrepreneurial mindset as “the set of attitudes, skills and behaviours that students need to succeed academically, personally and professionally. These include: initiative and self-direction, risk-taking, flexibility and adaptability, creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving”.. See sidebar below for more details.

Developing an entrepreneurial mindset among students is rapidly becoming an important desired outcome for students, parents and institutional heads alike. Clearly such a mindset is important for potential entrepreneurs, but these characteristics are as important for graduates seeking “normal” employment as it equips them with skills and an outlook that increase their value to would-be employers. This in turn is important to the institutions themselves as they strive to stay relevant and increase employability - which in turn helps them to attract the top students.

This is why there is increasingly more attention paid to how “entrepreneurial” are universities and there are some respected agencies rating universities and business schools against this scale. The two most important ones being the Times Higher Education Entrepreneurial University of the Year Award and Princeton Review’s entrepreneurial rankings. (Note there are several other “League Tables” such as the FT and the Guardian, but they do not rank entrepreneurship per se. If you are interested in finding out more about these League Tables, what they measure and some of the issues around them, take a look at HEPI’s report: A Guide to UK League Tables in Higher Education).

What makes a university “entrepreneurial”

Many institutions provide a range of entrepreneurial activities from curricular courses on entrepreneurship to extra-curricular activities such as hackathons and bolt-on services such as incubators - and so it becomes challenging to find a rating score that provides a comparable measurement of how “entrepreneurial” is a university. We have therefore unpacked the scoring system of the two agencies mentioned above, added in a little more from our personal knowledge of the topic and skimmed the web for other clues to help institutions think about measuring themselves on some entrepreneurial scale.

At a high level, although both research studies looked at inputs and outputs, the US studies tended to be more outcome focused (number of spin-offs, amount of funding), while the European studies had a greater focus on the intention and inputs such as vision, strategy and policy.
The diagram below shows an infographic of the key measurements used and grouped into 5 areas that inter-link. I am certain that over time (probably with the help of some big data type analysis) we will really be able to identify the key factors that make the difference and focus on those. Unfortunately at the moment, the list of factors being measured is too long and if you have too many measurements, you lose sight of the essence. Furthermore, as George Orwell said: ““All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”; and although all these factors are important, some should definitely earn a higher weighting when measuring entrepreneurship in universities.

Infographic of key elements of an entrepreneurial university
Entrepreneurial university infographic

Enter your details and we will send you a pdf version of this infographic

[rainmaker_form id="11170"]

Side panel: developing an entrepreneurial mindset

From the document: “The entrepreneurial university: from concept to action" by National Centre for Entrepreneurship Education

Thanks to the NCEE for this useful input.

The Enterprise Concept focuses upon the development of the ‘enterprising person and entrepreneurial mindset’. The former constitutes a set of personal skills, attributes, behavioural and motivational capacities (associated with those of the entrepreneur) but which can be used in any context (social, work, leisure etc). Prominent among these are; intuitive decision making, capacity to make things happen autonomously, networking, initiative taking, opportunity identification, creative problem solving, strategic thinking, and self efficacy. The ‘Mindset’ concept focuses not just upon the notion of ‘being your own boss’ in a business context but upon the ability of an individual to cope with an unpredictable external environment and the associated entrepreneurial ways of doing, thinking, feeling, communicating, organising and learning.

The Entrepreneurship Concept focuses upon the application of these personal enterprising skills, attributes and mindsets to the context of setting up a new venture or initiative of any kind, developing/growing an existing venture or initiative and designing an entrepreneurial organisation (one in which the capacity for executive use of enterprising skills will be enhanced). The context is therefore not connected to business but is equally applicable to social enterprise, education, health, NGOs and mainstream public organisations (e.g. universities and governments).

Entrepreneurial mindset

What to measure

The first challenge is in framing the problem and thinking about the desired outcome. This could fall anywhere on a spectrum from encouraging students to start entrepreneurial ventures through to improving employability of graduates. At Mashauri, we frame it as the degree to which a university encourages an entrepreneurial mindset among its students. There is plenty of evidence suggesting the link between an entrepreneurial mindset and improved employability as well as the obvious connection between students who are exposed to this thinking who end up launching a venture - either at university of after graduation.

Developing such a mindset cannot be simply taught in a classroom session. It requires an experiential, more immersive experience involving doing as well as learning - in fact more of the doing! It has long been recognised that the strength of an entrepreneurial ecosystem (be it at national, city or campus level) plays a significant role in developing successful entrepreneurs and offering this immersive experience. We therefore believe that a useful way of assessing how entrepreneurial is a university would be by measuring the strength of their entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Therefore, if you are prepared to follow this somewhat-experimental approach, we have developed a “University Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Canvas” (UEEC) roughly adapted from the ecosystem canvas developed by the Founders Institute. The canvas can be used to:

> Map what is currently available in a systematic format - and then identify areas that could be improved.

> Allocate responsibility to the critical areas and establish a focal point or group to manage this

> Make the output available to all the ecosystem players (obviously students but also faculty, alumni and external partners to encourage them to use it.

Our UEEC Canvas is a work in progress that we will continue to develop with our partner universities and the industry, but we have started with 8 elements:

> Leadership and commitment

> Events, clubs and promotions

> Teaching (curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular)

> Faculty entrepreneurial experience and interest

> Available space

> Support of entrepreneurs

> Networks (internal and external)

> Measurement of outcomes

We have developed a digital beta version of the Canvas that incorporates all the above elements and has been designed to be a practical tool that helps a university consider what they might do to strengthen the ecosystem and thereby their entrepreneurial drive. If you would like a copy of this UEEC which includes examples of how it might be used and some clearer definitions around the elements, please request a download below. We would be delighted to get your feedback.

[rainmaker_form id="11179"]

(If you have any problem with the download or format, drop us a line and we will help:


Developing an “entrepreneurial university” is becoming increasingly important to universities across the globe to impact on the success of their graduates and in positioning themselves in both the community and the market. The process of becoming entrepreneurial is far from an exact science, but through understanding the entrepreneurship ecosystem within the university and linked to the outside world, we can obtain some perspective on what is being done and what requires further attention.

We believe that through using some standard mapping system (such as the UEEC mentioned here) and beginning to measure the entrepreneurial outcomes, rapid progress could be made in moving towards the objective.

If you are interested in finding out more about how we help universities create entrepreneurs, develop entrepreneurial mindsets and position themselves as entrepreneurial institutions, please drop us a mail at or


Mashauri in a tweet

We impact employment & economic growth by training students to be entrepreneurs via online acceleration programs while leveraging off the strength of universities.

Putting the uni in unicorn

Putting the uni in unicorn

The Centre for Entrepreneurs in the UK published an interesting article earlier this year called: "Putting the uni in unicorn". Beyond being a fantastic name, it also has some great content.There is a link to the full article itself at the bottom of this blog and I recommend a read for those of you who are interested in the topic and have the time to read the 45 pages.

For those who do not have the time (or want to get an overview first), here is our summary (plus own thoughts) on what the article is about. Note: although it is UK-focused, there are plenty of lessons for educators in other regions too

Research (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor and others) shows that many young people aspire to be entrepreneurs, but many do not act on this aspiration. Although this may not be totally surprising, the gap between aspiration and action is far too wide.

Universities are increasingly undertaking activities to stimulate entrepreneurship, but could and should certainly be doing more - and by doing so could close the gap mentioned above. The main problem (states the article) is that universities are engaging with students to increase the level of "enterprise thinking" and pre-startup activities rather than actually helping entrepreneurs startup businesses. Furthermore, the majority of the effort is aimed at undergraduates, while graduates do not get enough support - and this is the group that really have the time to launch a new venture. 

To digress from the article slightly and use some information from the"Enterprise Effectiveness Guidance" (released by the QAA for Higher Education), where they say the ultimate goal of enterprise and entrepreneurship education is to develop entrepreneurial effectiveness which arises from three areas: enterprise awareness, entrepreneurial mindset and entrepreneurial capability and is best shown in the diagram that follows (taken from that paper):

Developing entrepreneurial effectiveness

At Mashauri, we agree with the QAA that students should be given the opportunity to develop this entrepreneurial effectiveness by receiving practice, training and support in the areas of awareness, mindset and capability.

Returning to the "uni in unicorn" article, they go on to describe the need for universities to supply incubators with a specific focus on, or at least track for, graduates of the university. There is a recognition that a large number (78% in the UK) of universities do provide incubation, but only 37% of those have any targeting at graduates. They are mainly aimed at spin-outs and external SME's; furthermore the definition of incubator had huge disparities from supplying a few hot desks through to proper office and lab facilities with business support.

A few other interesting points made were:

  • * In comparison to our US peers, we are far behind on tapping into the alumni network
  • * The American universities also have a far greater focus on incubators for graduates - sometimes combined with acceleration programs.
  • * UK universities are facing uncertainty re funding with the proposed abolition of the Higher Education Funding Council and the impact of Brexit on EU funds
  • * Student debt is also having an impact on the propensity of graduates to start a business versus the less-riskier full-time employment role.

A useful output is a summary of a research survey conducted among some incubator managers and the conclusions are a useful guide for anyone launching or upgrading their incubator. They cover topics including: who uses (should use) university incubators; what sort of businesses are started; how do incubators raise awareness and how do incubators define success.

The article concludes that supporting graduates in university incubators is necessary to close the gap between intention and action within a group of people who have the wherewithal (time and motivation) to do so. They offer some practical recommendations for universities and policy makers; and also comment on the type of metrics that are required, but seldom measured at the moment.

Mashauri supplies cost-effective online acceleration programs to universities to support them in developing "entrepreneurial effectiveness" among students and graduates. Please contact me at for more information - or simply have a look around our website.

The original article can be seen below (there is a download button as well). 
Note that some browsers require a refresh to see the document

Download (PDF, 1.95MB)

Download article