Understanding student engagement with social entrepreneurship: a case study of the University of Northampton

Understanding student engagement with social entrepreneurship: a case study of the University of Northampton

Terry Louis Tudor, Cleber Dutra


The development of skills for social enterprise is a key learning outcome in UK higher education. Using semi-structured interviews and questionnaires with students at the University of Northampton, this study aimed to examine the key factors that impacted upon student engagement with social entrepreneurship. The study showed that while levels of engagement were generally low, there were significant opportunities to improve these levels. A range of psycho-sociological factors (e.g. behavioural intentions, fears of debt, and awareness), as well as socio-demographic factors (e.g. gender), were found to have impacted upon student engagement with the concepts. Recommendations for increasing engagement including improving awareness, being mindful of terminology used, access to funding, and the need for greater cross-faculty working are suggested. While this is only a limited case study, the implications of the findings for wider UK HEIs such as provision of adequate funding and support, and the need to address key concerns such as student perceptions of links between grants and loans to debt, and limited awareness of social entrepreneurship, are also discussed.


Social entrepreneurship; University of Northampton; HEIs; social innovation; social enterprise

Full Text:



Bandura A. (1977) Social learning theory. NY: General Learning Press.
Biggs J. (2003). Teaching for quality learning at university. Second Edition. Buckingham: Open University Press & McGraw-Hill Education.
Bird B. and Brush, C. (2002) ‘A gendered perspective on organizational creation’. Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, 26 (3): 41 – 65.
BIS (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (2011) Students at the heart of the system. London: HMSO
Blenker P., Korsgaard S., Neergaard H. and Throne C. (2011) ‘The questions we care about: paradigms and progression in entrepreneurship education’. Industry and Higher Education, 25 (6): 417–428. http://dx.doi.org/10.5367/ihe.2011.0065
Bullvag, E., Kolvereid, L. and Amo B. W. (2010) Global entrepreneurship monitor. Entrepreneurship in Norway 2010. Available from www.gemconsortium.org/docs/download/2273 (accessed 6/12/14)
Carter, S. and Cannon, T. (1991) Women as entrepreneurs: a study of female business owners. Their motivations, experience and strategies. London: Academic Press.
Davey, T., Plewa C. and Struwig, M. (2011) ‘Entrepreneurship perceptions and career intentions of international students’. Education + Training, 53 (5): 335 – 352.
De Martino R., Barbato R. (2002). ‘An analysis of the motivational factors of intending entrepreneurship.’ Journal of Education for Business, 73 (2): 26 – 36.
Engle, R. I., Dimitriadi, N., Gavidia, H., Schlaegel, C., Delanoe, S., Alvarado, I., He, X., Baume, S. & Wolff, B. (2010) ‘Entrepreneurial intent: a twelve-country evaluation of Ajzen’s model of planned behaviour’. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour and Research, 16 (1): 35–57. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/13552551011020063
Evans, C. (2008) ‘Developing career management skills within the higher education curricula: a review and evaluation of different approaches.’ International Journal of management Education, 6 (3): 45–55.
Gibb, A. (2011) ‘Concepts into practice: meeting the challenge of developing entrepreneurship educators’ programmes around an innovative paradigm: The case of the International Entrepreneurship Educators’ Programme (IEEP)’. International Journal of Entrepreneurship Behaviour and Research, 17 (2): 146–165. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/13552551111114914
Grabham, A. (2012) Social enterprise day 2012 – universities key to growing social enterprise. Available at: http://blog.universitiesuk.ac.uk/2012/05/15/socent/ (accessed on 7/3/2014).
Hannon, P. (2005) ‘Philosophies of entrepreneurship and enterprise education and challenges for higher education in the UK’. International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, 6 (2): 105–114. http://dx.doi.org/10.5367/0000000053966876
HEFCE (Higher education Funding Council for England) (2011) Opportunities, choice and excellence in higher education. London.
Hessels, J., van Gelderen M. and Thurik, R. (2008). ‘Entrepreneurial aspirations, motivations and their drivers’. Small Business Economics, 31 (3): 323–339. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11187-008-9134-x
Hisrish, R. D. and Brush, C. G. (1987) ‘Women entrepreneurs: a longitudinal study’. Frontiers in entrepreneurship research. Wellesley, MA: Babson College.
Huq, A. and Gilbert, D. H. (2013) ‘Enhancing graduate employability through work-based learning in social entrepreneurship’. Education + Training, 55 (6): 550–572. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/ET-04-2012-0047
Iacobucci, D. and Micozzi, A. (2012) ‘Entrepreneurship education in Italian universities: trend, situation and opportunities’. Education + Training, 54 (8/9): 673–696.
Jiao, H. (2011) ‘A conceptual model for social entrepreneurship directed toward social impact on society’. Social Enterprise Journal, 7 (2): 130–149. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/17508611111156600
Jones, P., Jones, A., Packman, G. and Miller, C. (2008) ‘Student attitudes towards entrepreneurship education in Poland: a positive impact’. Education + Training, 50 (7): 597–614. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00400910810909054
Jones, P., Miller, C., Jones, A., Packham, G., Pickernell, D. and Zbierowski, P. (2011) ‘Attitudes and motivations of Polish students towards entrepreneurial activity’. Education + Training, 53 (5): 416–432. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00400911111147721
Kolb, D. A. (1984) Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. NJ: Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs.
Kolvereid, L. (1996) ‘Predictions of employment status choice intentions’. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 20 (3): 47–56.
Krueger, N. F., Reilly, M. D. and Carsrud, A. L. (2000) ‘Competing models of entrepreneurial intentions’. Journal of Business Venturing. 15 (5/6): 411–432. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0883-9026(98)00033-0
Kuckertz, A., Wagner, M. (2010) ‘The influence of sustainability orientation on entrepreneurship intentions – investigating the role of business experience’. Journal of Business Venturing, 25 (5): 524–539. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2009.09.001
Lent, R. W., Brown, S. D. and Hackett, G. (2000) ‘Contextual supports and barriers to career choice: a social cognitive analysis’. Journal of Counselling Psychology, 47 (1): 36–49. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-0167.47.1.36
Liñán, F. and Chen, Y. W. (2009) ‘Development and cross-cultural application of a specific instrument to measure entrepreneurial intentions’. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 33 (3): 593–617. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6520.2009.00318.x
Mair, J. & Marti, I. (2006) ‘Social entrepreneurship: a source of explanation, prediction and delight’. Journal of World Business, 41 (1): 36–44. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jwb.2005.09.002
Marques, C. S., Ferriera, J. J., Gomes, D. N. & Rodrigues, R. G. (2012) Entrepreneurship education: how psychological, demographic and behavioural factors predict the entrepreneurial intentions. Education + Training, 54 (8/9): 657–672.
Minniti, M., Arenius, P. and Langowitz N. (2005) Global entrepreneurship monitor 2004 report on women and entrepreneurship. Babson College Babson Park, MA.
Morris, M. H., Miyasaki, N. N., Walters, C. E. & Coombes, S. M. (2006) ‘The dilemma of growth: understanding venture size choices of women entrepreneurs’. Journal of Small Business Management, 44 (2): 221–244. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-627X.2006.00165.x
Peredo, A. M. and Mclean, M. (2006) ‘Social entrepreneurship: a critical review of the concept’. Journal of World Business, 41 (1): 56–65http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jwb.2005.10.007
Pittaway, L. and Cope, J. (2005) Entrepreneurship education: a systematic review of the evidence. Paper presented at the ISBE Conference, Blackpool, 1–3 November.
QAA (2012) Enterprise and entrepreneurship education: guidance for UK higher education providers. Gloucester, UK.
Rae, D. (2007) Entrepreneurship: from opportunity to action. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Rae, D. (2010) ‘Universities and enterprise education: responding to the challenges of the new era’. Journal of Small Business and Entrepreneurship Development, 17 (4): 591–606. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/14626001011088741
Rae, D. & Woodier, N. (2006) Graduate career choices and entrepreneurship. Research report 007/2006. National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship.
Rae, D., Martin, L., Antcliff, V. and Hannon, P. (2012) ‘Enterprise and entrepreneurship in English higher education: 2010 and beyond’. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 19 (3): 380-401. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/14626001211250090
Reynolds, P. D., Bygrave, W. D. and Autio, E. (2004) Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2003 Executive report. Babson College & London Business School.
Robertson, M. and Collins, A. (2003) ‘Developing entrepreneurship in West Yorkshire: west Yorkshire universities’ partnership and business start-up@Leedsmet’.’Education + Training, 45 (8): 303-307. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00400910310495941
Sobiechowska, P. and Maisch, M. (2007) ‘Work-based learning and continuing professional development’. Education + Training, 49 (3): 182–192. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00400910710749314
Solesvik, M. Z. (2013) ‘Entrepreneurial motivations and intentions: investigating the role of education major’. Education + Training, 55 (3): 253–271. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00400911311309314
Smith, K. and Beasley, M. (2011) ‘Graduate entrepreneurs: intentions, barriers and solutions’. Education + Training, 53 (8/9): 722–740.
Stephan, U. and Uhlaner, L. (2010) ‘Performance-based vs socially supportive culture: a cross-national study of descriptive norms and entrepreneurship’. Journal of International Business Studies, 4 (8): 1347–1364. http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/jibs.2010.14
Thompson, J., Alvy, G. and Lees, A. (2000) ‘Social entrepreneurship – a new look at the people and the potential’. Management Decisions, 38 (5): 328–338. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00251740010340517
UoN (University of Northampton) (2010) Raising the bar. Strategic plan 2010 – 2015. The University of Northampton.
UoN (University of Northampton) (2014) Annual report and consolidated statements for the year ending 31 July 2013. The University of Northampton.
Universities UK (2012) Universities enabling social enterprise – delivering benefits for all. Available at: http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/highereducation/Pages/UniversitiesEnablingSocialEnterprise.aspx#.VIL1wTGsXTo (accessed 6/12/14).
UnLtd (2013) Evaluation of the higher education support programme. London.
Vygotsky, L. (1978) Mind in society. London: Harvard University Press.
Walter, S. G. and Dohse, D. (2009) The interplay between entrepreneurship education and regional knowledge potential in forming entrepreneurship intentions. Kiel Working Paper, No 1549.
Weerawarden, J. and Mort, G. S. (2006) ‘Investigating social entrepreneurship: a multidimensional model.’ Journal of World Business, 41 (1): 21–35. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jwb.2005.09.001
Weimer, M. (2002) Learner-centred teaching: five key changes to practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Welsh, D. H. B. and Krueger, N. (2012) ‘The evolution of social entrepreneurship: what have we learned?’ Journal of Technology Management in China, 7 (3): 270-290. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/17468771311325176
Zahra, S. A., Rawhouser, H. N., Bhawe, N., Neubaum, D. O. and Hayton, J. C. (2008) ‘Globalization of social enterprise opportunities’. Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal. 2 (2): 117– 131. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/sej.43

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14234/elehe.v6i1.87

The Journal Enhancing the Learner Experience in Higher Education can be found at: http://journals.northampton.ac.uk/index.php/elehe/index

All views are the authors, and may not reflect the views of any organisation the author is connected with in any way.

Popular posts from this blog

Science and Technology OERs: over 8000 downloads

STEM networking event

Learning Smart - a community-driven, best learning resource sharing website.