A ‘Bright Idea’ that just keeps growing: the development of a strategy to firmly embed enterprise into the core of university philosophy

Page, Nigel and Mador, Martha (2018) A ‘Bright Idea’ that just keeps growing: the development of a strategy to firmly embed enterprise into the core of university philosophy. In: Advance HE Employability Symposium: An Enterprising Mind-Set for Employability; 15 May 2018, York, U.K.. (Unpublished)


For the eight-year running Kingston University has been rated amongst the top two most successful UK HE institutions in producing the most graduate business start-ups. In 2016, our students set up one in 10 of all graduate start-ups launched in England with a combined turnover of around £30 million. A significant development in enabling this winning enterprise formula has been the provision of strong support systems that attract and encourage students to pursue their creative and innovative ideas and turn them into reality. Particularly, prominent is the way the university works with alumni as demonstrated by the number of successful graduates who offer to be judges, mentors and funders of the university’s Bright Ideas competition. Bright Ideas is an annual competition (with around 650 entrants) that gives students the opportunity to develop and showcase their ideas with extensive support through workshops and from mentors – ultimately pitching their ideas to experienced entrepreneurs with prizes up to £1000. This approach although an institutional one had previously attracted a higher proportion of business Faculty students (i.e. >50% business studies students, representing only 17% of total student population). Therefore, a strategic and more inclusive approach was sort to encourage more students from other Faculties such as the biosciences to participate. In addition, the Wakenham review (2016) highlighted the fundamental link between graduate skills and employability in STEM degree provision and graduate employability; identifying mismatches in expectations between HE providers and industry, particularly in areas such as commercial awareness. Therefore, in the STEM subject area, we developed a trial in the biosciences taking a two-step approach. First, we redesigned our programmes to weave support provision to develop employability skills, including enterprise/entrepreneurship education into the course design. A key part was to link employability, research and enterprise to the core subject knowledge to highlight its relevance. In doing so, students take key scientific concepts, research them by reviewing the creative approaches, and learn about the challenges faced in developing these ideas and the impact of ethical and regulatory matters. While this strategy initially included signposting to developing technical skills within the curriculum, there was a need for a concrete exercise to bring it to life for students and engage them directly in an enterprise activity. Therefore, second, we developed a seamless link between the employability embedded within the curriculum and the co-curriculum. The initiative supported by workshops from the Enterprise team, signposting to other resources and events, and encouragement to attend and develop their ideas was through embedding the university’s Bright Ideas programme. This three-year approach has led to a significant increase (37%) in STEM students entering Bright Ideas and contributed to these students winning top prizes for the last two consecutive years. Demonstration of the initiatives success has also been shown from bioscience student testimonies and commendation from the Royal Society of Biology (‘a good initiative encouraging creativity and innovation’). We intend to transfer this approach across our other disciplines and review how it can be further integrated throughout the student life cycle.

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