Student Entrepreneurship Clusters : some thoughts on the development of an innovative teaching offer
Widespread demand has recently emerged for measures to be taken to provide students in higher education with the opportunity to acquire entrepreneurial skills. Echoes of this demand are to be found in recent work produced by the OECD and in the desire expressed in 2010 by the French government to set up “Student Entrepreneurship Clusters” in the country's universities. Two aims have been defined for these clusters: to spread awareness of entrepreneurial skills amongst as many students as possible, while providing training to the smaller number of students interested in the prospect of setting up innovative companies. It would be preferable if these last had access to dedicated incubators. Such structures would enable various tertiary education establishments (universities, business schools, engineering schools) to pool their efforts and make their expertise available to students specialising in a wide range of academic subjects. Furthermore, it is envisaged that the new offer will encompass innovative teaching approaches. In this paper, a description of the objectives defined for these clusters will be followed by an examination of the conditions of possibility of a new offer targeting, in a given region, students in different academic years, studying for different qualifications. Innovation in teaching methods will be discussed in reference to the approach suggested by Béchard and Grégoire (2009), an approach articulated around the concepts of teaching models and contextual anchoring. Our perspective will reflect that of Hjorth and Johannisson (2007), according to whom “if entrepreneurship is a creation process, (...) entrepreneurship education is not only about learning what to do, but also learning how to do new things, how to create”. Moreover, the manner in which entrepreneurial skills are acquired will be analysed with a view to developing a systematic picture of the process. The fact that such skills are contextualised will be taken into account: they can only be acquired by means of action learning or direct observation (Gibb, 1993; Fiet, 2002). Lastly, the issue of assessing student acquisition of entrepreneurial skills will also be addressed. However, emphasis will be placed on evaluating the process of making students studying different subjects aware of entrepreneurial skills with a view to defining the specific type of indicators likely to provide an insight into students' acquisition of expertise and savoir-être.
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