Universities don’t know how to cope with entrepreneurial mindsets

And it’s tragic.

“To rid yourself of old patterns, focus all your energy not on struggling with the old, but on building the new.”

Modern Street Talk has been through many forms: a Blogger blog, a digital content hub, a consultancy, a Medium publication.

Right now, it’s kind of a mix of the latter three.

But the thing I wanted MST to be the most was a place for student entrepreneurs to get help and guidance on how to find success in self-employment. I wanted it to be a content hub which would act as the one-stop-shop for all questions, queries and worries students had if they decided to take the leap in to owning their own business or becoming a freelancer.


It’s needed.

Universities cannot handle entrepreneurial mindsets. The whole system is set up to produce researchers or 9–5 workers. It murders the ambition of the entrepreneurs within it by pushing them down a path which demands theoretical essays rather than in-the-trenches experience and reflection.

Courses make students study dated theories in favour of simply letting them go out there and get their hands dirty.

Entrepreneur societies are set up by the students and supported by the universities. That’s the wrong way round.

Don’t get me wrong, the students do a fantastic job (especially University of Manchester’s Manchester Entrepreneurs) but the societies and courses aren’t married together. Instead of leaning on and learning from each other, they drift separately, crossing paths only when one needs something from the other.

That needs to change. I wanted MST to empower that change, but it didn’t work out.

In all honesty, I didn’t try hard enough for long enough. My gut feeling was that the timing just wasn’t right, and it needed more energy putting in to it than I could give. So, I let the idea go.

For nearly four months I’ve let MST become more of a self-improvement, storytelling content hub than a one-stop-student-entrepreneur-shop.

And that’s fine. I’m happy with where MST is heading. If I wanted to get back in the saddle to help self-employed students and young people then I’d go forward with a different name, different branding and a better story.

But my trouble has been that I haven’t wanted to get back in the saddle.

Until I read a BBC article today.

This one:

The key theme of the piece is a frustration I’ve heard echoed over and over again from the connections I’ve made in the business and tech industries.

And the start-up funding scene in the UK is weak, but I don’t care much for the key theme. I care about this bit, shoved right down at the bottom:

Another theory is that universities aren’t being supportive enough.
“We haven’t been as opportunistic, adventurous and entrepreneurial as others,” said Annalisa Jenkins, boss of Dimension Therapeutics, a gene therapy innovator.
“In the past academics have traditionally viewed success, quite rightly, as their ability to publish their research in leading journals… the notion of turning their inventions into innovations that really drive value for people hasn’t really been rewarded and recognised in terms of the culture of our country in the last 20 to 30 years,” Ms Jenkins said.

Opportunistic. Adventurous. Entrepreneurial.

Three things UK universities are largely not. In fact, three things those in positions of power are largely not.

And it’s tragic.

At a time where there are nearly two million freelancers in this country — a figure which has jumped by 36 per cent since 2008 — universities are still failing to embrace the confidence and audacity many of us have to strike out independently.

There are problems, and something has to change. Whether it’s top-down or bottom-up, there needs to be change.

There needs to be closer collaboration between universities and their entrepreneurial societies. There needs to be more communication and collaboration between entrepreneurial societies.

To enact change, there must be one team, working towards one goal.

I’m going to start a mission.

“To rid yourself of old patterns, focus all your energy not on struggling with the old, but on building the new.”