Creatives urged to embrace business

May 25, 2007

Nesta and HEA say disciplines from art to music must foster entrepreneurialism in their students. Olga Wojtas reports

Academics are being challenged to bring entrepreneurial education into the heart of the creative disciplines.

In their report Creating Entrepreneurship , the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta) and the Higher Education Academy urge institutions to ensure that they link the world of learning to the world of work in disciplines from architecture and music to photography and the visual arts.

And they warn that students seem confused, with 45 per cent expecting to run their own business but few universities preparing them for success.

The report says there is no shortage of start-ups, with creative graduates more likely than others to become self-employed, set up businesses or work as freelances. Some 42 per cent of creative graduates are self-employed at some stage in the first five years after leaving university, but many graduates from a number of creative areas, including design, are struggling.

The report uncovers a discrepancy between what universities think they are providing and what students think they are getting. Michael Harris, a Nesta senior research fellow, said: "I think the senior management of universities tend to be very aware of flagship entrepreneurial education schemes. They might set up an incubator unit, but that doesn't always filter down to individual students on individual courses. Because creative students don't always see the relevance of entrepreneurial education they don't tend to see the facilities on campus as relevant to their creative development."

The report suggests that students in the creative industries see their businesses having a social benefit rather than being focused on creating wealth. They are particularly uncomfortable with the idea of entrepreneurship because of television programmes such as The Apprentice and Dragons' Den . They see these as confrontational and concerned with making money at the expense of society and the environment.

Dr Harris called for a more co-ordinated approach to entrepreneurship education for the creative industries across the UK, with tailor-made modules promoting "learning by doing" and direct links with industry.

"I don't want to be too negative," Dr Harris said. "A lot of universities are working closely with local creative businesses, and where they do students show a very positive response. There's plenty of good practice out there, it just needs to be promoted a lot more."

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