The focus of entrepreneurship and innovation education and research at institutions of higher education ipso facto implies a wish to enhance the quality of graduate and post-graduate business venturing prospects as well as business know-how in the normally pre-entrepreneurial stage. This should happen within a sense-making framework that integrates the research and education agenda for graduate entrepreneurship. Further, an entrepreneurship and innovation education and research approach should be followed that guide the content of the competitive landscape in which the prospective entrepreneur will function and not lag behind and thereby looses its relevance.
Of particular importance to entrepreneurial education lies the ability of institutions of higher education to shift and circulate information and technologies across faculties despite different academic disciplines, professional codes, and academic language that act as academic venture boundaries. These boundaries frustrate the need to integrate entrepreneurship education throughout a higher education institution, thus inhibiting the smooth functioning of entrepreneurial education. Thus, a need exists to overcome these barriers by amalgamating the various faculties socially across faculties whereby entrepreneurial educators could play “bridging roles” by acting as “boundary spanners” between faculties and forming close cohesive networks through the whole institution. This will enable educators in entrepreneurial higher education to link otherwise unconnected faculties to facilitate the development of unique knowledge and access to special knowledge and opportunities. This create an advantage over the traditional structural design where educators were only part of a specific faculty cohesive group.
In the new economy, technology and knowledge production on which it is based, have become an intrinsic part of the economy. As a result, it may be envisaged that education and research in institutions of higher education will need to support the whole technology development process, which also include the process of innovation. In this regard, it may be more appropriate to develop education and research policies that addresses the whole technology-innovation chain instead of merely the research-development chain, as the research-innovation chain involves taking ideas, turning them into technologies and taking these, through research and development, out of the laboratory and proving them in real-world situations.
The aim of this paper is to propose an educational governance framework for entrepreneurship and innovation at institutions of higher education to foster the upgrading of entrepreneurial competencies in students whilst preserving the traditional academic competencies of students and the provision of unique entrepreneurial opportunities to students to perform entrepreneurial tasks.
Firstly, with regards to the governance of entrepreneurship education at higher education institutions it is proposed that it should be managed by an “inter-faculty-inter-industry committee” (boundary-spanning leadership is provided) in order to achieve a greater measure of integration (common building blocks is created) in terms of generic entrepreneurial skills requirements that cross over academic disciplines, whilst simultaneously making provision for the unique disciplinary requirements and needs of specific disciplines. This implies a shift away from the traditional independent faculty approach (functional myopia) which lacks commonly shared interests that is adopted by most universities and substituting it for a new re-configured structure able to create entrepreneurial value through a holistic, yet focussed approach (integrated birds eye view) among various faculties. This largely represents the antithesis of the traditional academic governance approach followed at the majority of institutions of higher education. However, it is considered necessary, as it is able to strike out higher potential for entrepreneurship and innovation directions through the whole academic supply chain. In essence a virtual horizontal department – operating on the basis of value chains – is created, without necessarily increasing the staff operational cost to the institution. Creating a virtual horizontal department will ensure that all employees (lecturing staff) interpret the market signals better, and ensure that customer and entrepreneurial concerns become known to all faculties, regardless of their function in the university leading to a better customer focus. By establishing an inter-faculty-inter-industry committee, opportunity is created for healthy and critical curriculum content debate (knowledge interaction), whilst module developers become better informed on borderline subjects and aspects. Even more essential is the protection that will be provided to ensure that the disciplinary, inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary entrepreneurship field of study is not vulnerable to the “tactic of isolation” by claiming academic ownership in one faculty.
Secondly, entrepreneurship and innovation cannot flourish within institutional isolation. Cross-fertilisation of national and international academic and industry business networks is required not only to build leading edge relevant curriculum content, but also to keep up to date with the dynamics in the field. In this regard it would be important to create entrepreneurial knowledge champions in each of the faculties, whilst still operating under the academic guidance of an Entrepreneurial Centre of Excellence that could coordinate all activities and ensure proper co-operation between faculties. In essence, the Entrepreneurial Centre of Excellence’s focus is to orchestrate the entrepreneurial functions in all the faculties. This will further ensure that the “big divide” in entrepreneurial education between faculties is largely eliminated. With regard to its functions within the institution the Entrepreneurial Centre of Excellence’s role could be to: