National Centre for Entrepreneurship in EducationEntrepreneurial leadership is helping universities thrive in times of change

Entrepreneurial leadership is helping universities thrive in times of change

Risk-taking and quick thinking are no longer the only markers of entrepreneurial leadership, according to our panel on the topic at this year’s Leadership and Management Summit, in conjunction with NCEE

Perceptions of what entrepreneurial leadership means have been placed under the microscope by the Covid-19 pandemic. At Times Higher Education’s virtual Leadershiand Management Summitthe panel explored how institutions’ response to the crisis will shape their future.

“Prior to Covid, I would have defined [entrepreneurial leadership] as fresh thinking, having more of a start-up culture and more risk tolerance,” said Geoff Smith, CEO and vice-chancellor of Regent’s University London. “But [the pandemic] for us became an existential crisis because 81 per cent of our students are from outside the UK and were faced with travel disruption and quarantine.” University leaders needed to make tough commercial decisions quickly if they were to thrive in this time of immense change.

Ian Dunn, provost and chief academic officer at Coventry University Group (CUG)explained how entrepreneurial leadership applies to the academic sphere. “It could be creating new ways of doing things, understanding data to fine-tune what we’re doing and ensuring we’re financially viable so we can continue our civic role,” he said. CUG has established new campuses and course offerings in communities where higher education provision was lacking, “making us stronger and more diverse”. 

In its annual survey, the National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education (NCEE) has historically found that entrepreneurial leadership centres around innovation, creativity and willingness to take action, chief executive Ceri Nursaw explained. “We’re still talking about the same issues, but also adaptability and agility and being light on your feet. It’s challenged people who like scenario planning who must now make decisions incredibly quickly.” The pandemic has meant that “educating for uncertainty” is more important than ever.

“Graduates won’t work for one company for all their lives, they’ll do a range of different things,” said Mary Stuart, vice-chancellor of the University of Lincoln. “We’ve been working on dealing with challenges such as the impact of technological change.”

The pandemic has accelerated discussions around approaches to learning design. Dunn noted that universities had not previously invested in their virtual campuses with the same vigour as their physical sites. “The traditional way of delivering content has gone forever and we now have an opportunity to merge the physical and the virtual,” he said. Data can inform a more entrepreneurial and agile approach to what institutions can offer, he concluded. “We can make sure the student journey is personalised and at the same time allow our academics to become the navigators and curators of learning rather than simply delivering content.”

Find out more about how NCEE can support higher education.

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