How entrepreneurial are you? asks Brussels

A new online service was launched last week by the European Commission and the OECD to help universities better understand their place in today’s market-oriented world by measuring how entrepreneurial they are.

The initiative, HEInnovate, is a self-assessment tool enabling universities to assess their performance in seven areas: leadership and governance, organisational capacity, teaching and learning, pathways for entrepreneurs, university-business exchange, the internationalised institution, and impact measurement.

Some of these headings will represent new territory for many in academia. But from many reports in recent years it is clear this is the path Brussels wants European higher education to take if it is to meet the competitive challenges of the next decade.

Androulla Vassilliou, the European commissioner for education, said: "Entrepreneurial skills and mindsets are more important than ever in today's global markets. That applies as much to universities as enterprises. I am confident that this new initiative will encourage European higher education institutions to become more entrepreneurial and open to opportunities."

Under each of the seven assessment areas, the participating institutions are invited to score themselves from 0-10 in response to statements such as the following:

  • • Entrepreneurship is a major part of the university strategy.
  • • The university is open to recruiting and engaging with individuals who have entrepreneurial attitudes, behaviours and experience.
  • • The university validates entrepreneurship learning outcomes.
  • • Business start-up education is offered across the curricula and faculties.
  • • The university facilitates access to private financing for its potential entrepreneurs.
  • • The university has strong links with incubators and science parks.
The website will then use the results for the institution to highlight areas of strength and weakness. The commission said this would “also help the institution improve its performance by providing links to customised examples of good practice”.

But there is no benchmarking or ranking involved in the assessments, said Brussels. All results and data would remain the property of the user and not be kept or stored by the commission or the OECD.

There would be no fees or registration costs for the service.

The commission and the OECD plan to hold workshops and events across Europe in 2014 to demonstrate how participating institutions can get the most out of the website.

Behind the launch of HEInnovate is the commission’s much-proclaimed argument that European higher education systems “increasingly have to change the way they operate due to the revolution in information and communication technologies, the financial crisis, global competition and pressure on budgets”.

This has led to the development by the commission's University-Business Forum, which brings together business and academia, of a framework for the “entrepreneurial university”, a body that stresses “innovation in all areas, from research to teaching and learning, knowledge exchange, governance and external relations”.

Brussels set up an expert panel in early 2012 to examine the concept and this in turn has led to the creation of HEInnovate.

The commission said the initiative “takes account of the diversity of the European higher education landscape and the areas which can contribute to entrepreneurial performance in higher education".