Learning by doing; UWE Bristol runs new course for budding entrepreneurs

Issue date: 27 November 2013

A new course at UWE Bristol aimed at producing graduates with degrees plus experience of running their own businesses has just welcomed its first cohort of 37 students.

The course structure is ground-breaking – no classrooms, compulsory lectures or exams - and has been introduced to the UK for the first time this year. Called Team Entrepreneurship, the degree course is based on methods pioneered in Finland and also run successfully in Spain and Hungary, and has been described as a revolution in management education.

Course leader Carol Jarvis from UWE's Bristol Business School said, “Running a real business – devising a product or service and selling it to customers – is what drives the students' learning. All students have an equal financial stake in the companies they create and will learn to manage the risks and rewards this entails.

“We believe they learn better, and the information is retained, as they acquire knowledge when they need it. They learn by applying theory to practice and by reading material as it becomes relevant to them.

“The first group of students are already showing themselves to be confident, resilient, highly motivated team members.”

The students meet in a high-tech 'hub' rather than a traditional classroom, with areas for team meetings, workshops and ideas sessions. Along with the novel surroundings, the recruitment process was different too, based on a 'taster' day, group interviews and personal profiling. They have no set timetable, although they can attend any lecture from the Faculty of Business and Law, and work 9-5 each day during a longer academic year.

Part-way through the first term of the course, the two teams – Think Limitless and LTRL - are already coming up with their first business ideas and developing a friendly sense of competitiveness. The teams are currently being registered as companies, to form an umbrella under which they will set up and run a wide array of business projects. This year, students have got the challenge of raising an average of £2500 per person from their enterprises.

Ideas for businesses under way so far include a top quality clothing company, a classic car parts company, and creating a business model for selling customised headphones into the student market in other universities. All the students are enthusiastic about the new structure and opportunities of the course.

Jamie Rawsthorne of LTRL said, “We were left to own devices from day one, and have to find out what to do to run a company.

“We are at Uni full time, 9 – 5, for a combination of training sessions and workshops run by 'coaches' who are really professional and mean we are having some really creative conversations with real business experts.”

Tom Bromley of Think Limitless said, “I chose the course because I knew it would provide me with invaluable experience in the business world, as opposed to learning theories and not having the opportunity to implement them. The course has really boosted my confidence and already only two months in, the diversity of tasks completed has been great.

“I would encourage anyone who is self-motivated and practically minded to take this course. I'm already establishing a good network and developing a portfolio of valuable experience which I can show to an employer, to evidence what I have done, rather than what I could do."

Beth Williams, one of the directors of LTRL said, “As with the courses in Bilbao and Finland, it is not just about how much money the businesses make. UWE also makes academic assessments of our progress.

“We have a large booklist and read relevant publications according to the stage the company is at. We review and summarise the information we gain from the books, and show how we have taken the theory and put it into practice.”

By the time these students graduate, they will have a network of contacts in the business community and a great CV to accompany their degree.

As Carol concludes, “I was so impressed with the first students I met when I visited the team entrepreneurship course in Finland. To me they seemed as ready for the world of work as if they had already finished their studies and also completed a two-year graduate training course.

“Offering this type of course at UWE is a demonstration of our commitment to our vision of producing practice-oriented graduates who are ready and able to take up challenges in the real world.”

To view a selection of photos taken at the Team Entrepreneurship Hub, visit the UWE Bristol News Flickr pages.

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