Students with business ideas will be talent-spotted by a new national agency next year as part of a drive to create more graduate entrepreneurs, The Times Higher has learnt.
Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, is to launch the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship on September 13. It will help graduates start up businesses and encourage universities to promote entrepreneurship through their careers services.
The council will commission research into why less than 2 per cent of UK graduates start up their own business and report back to ministers about whether student debt is a deterrent to business start-ups.
Graduate jobs surveys in the US have suggested that up to 15 per cent of US university leavers set up their own businesses.
The council plans to hold an international conference on graduate entrepreneurship in November, followed by a talent-spotting exercise early next year.
Each region in England will be asked to put forward ten graduates with business ideas. Each idea will be honed by business, legal and finance experts during an eight-week masterclass in entrepreneurship, before it is proposed to venture-capital companies to see if it can win private sector financial support.
Former academic Ian Robertson, who spun off an educational technology company from his computer science research at the University of Central Lancashire 15 years ago, has been appointed council chief executive.
David Thomas, chief executive of the Careers Research and Advisory Centre, said the council needed to act like a Prince's Trust for graduates - offering financial support as well as advice.
He said: "Careers services have enough to do with their other activities and probably don't have the expertise to advise on financial and fiscal matters and business planning advice."
The Government denied this week that a target had been moved on graduate job prospects after data were released about how many graduate jobs there will be in future.
After figures on student careers were published last week, a Department for Education and Skills spokesman said that 50 per cent of jobs in the UK economy between 2000 and 2012 would be graduate posts.
But the Government's White Paper on Higher Education, published last year, predicted that 80 per cent of jobs up to 2010 would require a degree.
The DFES spokesman said that the new figures took account of both the creation of jobs and the filling of existing posts that fall vacant, while the White Paper data referred to new jobs only.
Chris Grayling, Tory higher education spokesman, said: "When we reach - as we have - a point where participation in the UK is higher than any other G7 country, and this evidence of job-market problems for graduates emerges, we have to ask seriously whether it is wise to plan a more than 10 per cent expansion in the next five years."