The stated aim for the Centre is to develop education for students from all disciplines and professions who will constantly challenge accepted truths and innovate for the better, in both the private and public sectors. The Centre interprets entrepreneurship in a much wider sense than simply starting new businesses. Instead, the focus is upon developing change agents: citizens able to respond to the complex challenges of the modern world through an “entrepreneurial mind-set”.
Strengths and weaknesses
ENgage brings together a range of partners with complementary skills: NTNU School of Entrepreneurship, Nord University Business School, NTNU Experts in Teamwork, NTNU TrollLABS and Spark NTNU. These partners have many years’ experience in different aspects of entrepreneurship education. The expert panel was particularly pleased to see the important position and roles of students and student organisations within ENgage.
A key mission of the proposed centre is to provide opportunities for students from all disciplines to gain entrepreneurial experience. This will be achieved in a number of ways including the introduction of new learning approaches in existing programs. Vital to the success of this initiative will be support from senior management within the University. It was very clear to the expert panel that this support is already in place and that this development aligns with the University’s strategic direction.
A diverse range of external stakeholders is committed to the development of ENgage as an SFU. These stakeholders can enrich the SFU through demonstrating the entrepreneurial mind-set in a range of settings and by providing advice, mentoring and real-world problems for students to address. The Centre leader impressed the expert panel with his vision and understanding of what is needed to make the SFU a success. However, to be successful the centre leader needs active management support from all the leaders at all levels associated with the centre. He will have an important role to play in ensuring that the different partners and work packages come together to form an integrated whole rather than operating in separate silos. The proposed Steering Group has a vital role in supporting him to achieve this and the expert panel felt that the membership of the Steering Group should be revised to include the Vice-Rector.
The relevance of this proposal to higher education across Norway is evidenced by the fact that, since the publication of the SFU short-list, a number of universities had approached ENgage to seek involvement with the proposed activities. These approaches provide ENgage with potential opportunities for ‘dissemination for action’ and the team will need to build these into their, as yet, embryonic dissemination plan.
In common with most proposals, there are weaknesses in the team’s understanding of evaluation and impact frameworks. The Centre leader will need to work closely with the individual work package leaders to ensure that evaluation and impact are integral from the outset of the project. This will ensure dynamic feedback, generating ongoing improvement rather than just a static end of project final judgement.
Overall, the international expert panel viewed this as an exciting proposal with the potential to make a significant impact across the whole of Norwegian higher education. Whilst still in need of some refinement, it has a good likelihood of success.