The Enterprise Approach: Reshaping Entrepreneurial Education

Submitting Institution

University of Durham

Unit of Assessment

Business and Management Studies

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy, Specialist Studies In Education

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Summary of the impact

This case study details the impact of research at Durham University Business School (DUBS) in changing the way that notions of enterprise are used within education to develop the personal attributes of young people. This "enterprise approach" has been widely adopted within primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions across the UK and internationally. The impact of the research is significant in reshaping curriculum and learning in different levels of education - towards producing "enterprising young people" regardless of the subject being studied. The reach of the research is reflected in its application across all levels of education (primary, secondary and tertiary) as well as in the numbers of institutions — across a wide range of countries — who have adopted the model.

Underpinning research

The Centre for Small Business, founded by Gibb in 1971 (today known as the Centre for Entrepreneurship), has enabled DUBS to engage in an extensive range of research related to the theme of entrepreneurship that has had many effects on practitioners. Since the 1980s, an important element of its work has focused on developing entrepreneurial outlooks and skills, at every stage of education by linking it to an enterprise culture. The underlying theme of this stream of research is that, while the "enterprise approach to learning derives its key components from the organizational dynamics of the small business (Reference 1 p.16) ... the learning goals [of the enterprise approach] may have nothing to do with business: they can range from improving understanding of a particular historical event, to enhancing appreciation of a poem, to improving numeracy or writing ability" (Reference 1, p.23). This is because the learning environment that faces people who run small businesses (i.e. "learning under pressure, `how' to do things and, very substantially, discovering for oneself `how to' do things and `who with'" (Reference 1, p.18)) provides a valuable model for learning that can be generalized to other contexts.

As Reference 2 clarifies, the enterprise model of education relates "to ways in which people...behave in order to cope with and take advantage of uncertainty and complexity and how, in turn, this becomes embodied in: ways of doing things; ways of seeing things; ways of feeling things...and ways of learning things" (p.16). Furthermore, Reference 1 asserts that it "is the experience at Durham, with large numbers of teachers in both primary and secondary education, that most teachers are very wary of accepting a definition of enterprise that embraces the capitalist ethic. They will, however, very warmly embrace the concept of developing the enterprising behaviours and attributes of young people as a major goal for education" (p.24).

Reference 1 also argues that much of the pedagogy of the traditional education system stultifies rather than develops the requisite attributes and skills to produce enterprising and entrepreneurial young people (i.e. people characterized by "acting independently ... [with a] commitment to making things happen ... persuading others ... taking risky actions in uncertain environments ... coping with and enjoying uncertainty" and so on — a full list is given in figure 3 of Reference 3, p.19). The enterprise approach to education thus presents a challenge to traditional pedagogic approaches. Specifically, it demands a shift in emphasis to educating `through' enterprising modes of learning - modes contrasted with traditional didactic approaches:

Didactic Enterprising
Learning from teacher alone Learning from each other
Passive role as listener Learning by doing
Learning from written texts Learning from personal exchange and debate
Mistakes feared Mistakes learned from

Reference 1, p.24.

It follows that "the real challenge of the model... [for] the primary or secondary school, is to create an enterprising environment, a project management approach to learning under conditions of uncertainty and to employ teaching staff with an orientation towards, and capability for, enterprising modes of learning" (p.32). Indeed, Reference 1 provides details of how this model can be applied in practical classroom situations: the "students [at all levels of education] within the DUBS model are asked to `manage' all the project tasks, construct a frame of reference for the project and manage inter-relationships with a wide variety of people (including adults) under conditions of uncertainty" (pp.21/22). Once the conceptual basis of the enterprise model of education was developed — as set out in References 1-3 — teams of local teachers were directly involved in translating the research concepts for practical application via classroom manuals. This activity has happened for a number of years prior to 2008, but has continued to occur and develop throughout the current REF period. Gibb led all this research activity, and was active in its practical application, working through various teams. He played a leading role in: (1) designing, developing, testing and disseminating materials for incorporation into entrepreneurship curricula; (2) providing training and support for those teachers/mentors who had responsibility for delivering the curricula in various countries; and (3) mobilising stakeholder backing in each country, including the necessary financial support from international bodies and the private sector.

Gibb worked at DUBS from 1965 until 2000, where he remains an emeritus professor. His contribution to entrepreneurship research was formally recognised by the award of an OBE (2009) for "service to the small business community" and by a Queen's Lifetime Achievement Award for Enterprise Promotion (2009). In 2012 he was also awarded the first European Entrepreneurship Award by the Sten K. Johnson Centre for Entrepreneurship at Lund University in Sweden, for his "pioneering work within entrepreneurship education".

References to the research

1. Gibb, A.A. (1993), `Enterprise culture and education: Understanding enterprise education and its links with small business, entrepreneurship and wider educational goals', International Small Business Journal, 11:3 11-34. 3* ABS journal) cited 431 times according to Google Scholar.


2. Gibb, A.A. (2000) `SME policy, Academic Research and the Growth of Ignorance, Mythical Concepts, Myths, Assumptions, Rituals and Confusions', International Small Business Journal, 18: 13-35. 3* ABS journal, cited 226 times according to Google Scholar.


3. Gibb, A.A. (1994) 'Do we really teach (approach) small business the way we should', Journal of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, 11:2, 1994, 11-28. Cited 43 times according to Google Scholar.


Details of the impact

Since 2003, a DUBS spin off company, The Virtual Centre (VC) — established under the guidance of Gibb — has been the main pathway for the impact of this research. It is through the VC that the educational materials have been delivered to clients all over the world (, and see Evidence 1). The VC is a private limited company (15% University-owned), and specialises in the design, development and delivery of software specifically for learning processes relating to enterprise and entrepreneurship. Schools and other organizations subscribe to the VC in order to use the platform and get access to the materials. The managing director of the VC, Tony Coyle, was employed as a Senior Programme Tutor [Learning Technologies] at DUBS from 06/06/1994 to 01/10/2007. He was also a member of the Small Business Centre throughout this period and worked alongside Gibb, to design, update and produce new enterprise educational manuals based upon DUBS research. Supported by Gibb, Coyle also delivers the training of teachers in the use of the manuals.

Between 2008 and 2013 teaching material for an enterprising model of learning has been available for the following subjects in UK schools: Maths, English, Technology, Geography, History (Evidence 2). There have also been a wide range of bespoke educational manuals produced for many international clients (Evidence 2). Typically each manual contains a description of "What is meant by the enterprising approach?" i.e. it uses the same terminology as References 1-3. Each manual is approximately 80 pages long and includes (for UK manuals) details of how the enterprising approach can be incorporated into practical sessions that link to the national curriculum (Evidence 3). The following five examples show the significance of the impact on educational practice that has occurred due to DUBS research during the REF period.

1) UK Schools: Between 2008 and 2013, approximately 130,000 children from over 500 Schools in the UK have accessed the teaching materials that have been developed from the enterprise model of education (for the list of schools see Evidence 4). According to Evidence 5, "Altogether, with an absolute minimum of 10 `hits' per year for the 130,000 children, this brings a total of around 1.3m [hits] per year. Basically, hits in this context include files uploaded (including discussions). Our largest user in 2010 was...Durham Sixth Form College, which managed 100,000 up-loads [by individual children] per year". As retired senior inspector for Gateshead Education Authority (retired 2013) explains in Testimonial 1: "It is against a background of innovation and excellence that Gateshead Education Authority has collaborated with Durham Business School, the Centre for Entrepreneurship and the Virtual Centre...Gateshead brought a detailed knowledge and practitioner expertise of the requirements of personalised teaching and learning strategies, tracking recording and reporting. This assisted the university team to enhance their underpinning pedagogy in relation to current National Curriculum requirements, VAK [visual, audio and kinesthetic], Personal Learning and Thinking Skills and Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning. While the LA [Local Authority] and CLC [City Learning Centre] benefited through CPD [continuing professional development] in cross, intra and extra-curricular enterprise education methodology and a library of resources, which are essential in all phase of education from early years and primary schools to special and secondary schools." Thus, impact was felt across a range of Schools in the UK in this way, as the enterprise model was used to deliver education to a significant number of children.

2) Tanzanian Institute of Education: A similar programme to the UK's is currently being undertaken on behalf of the Tanzanian Institute of Education within the country's primary and secondary schools. The pathway to the impact of Durham research in this case started with a study tour of the UK in 2011. This tour involved six senior delegates from the Tanzanian Institute, studying the DUBS model of enterprise education via the VC for all levels and types of schools/colleges. The associated training course they undertook on the tour (delivered by Coyle and based upon References 1-3) focused upon the country's senior education managers, who then are responsible for training teachers and lecturers throughout their respective education systems, using the methods, materials and resources underpinned by Durham research and made available through the VC platform. These include four manuals (each approximately 150 pages long) detailing `Primary Enterprise', `Secondary Enterprise', `Business Enterprise' and `Embedding Enterprise in Education' that act as learning resources for children and teachers (Evidence 6). The popular `duck production' exercise (a fun way of teaching via the enterprise model) used widely in the educational programmes in the UK, is one of a number of features (Evidence 3 and 6). As Testimonial 1 suggests Gateshead were also involved: "in 2011, we were able to showcase 8 of our schools' Enterprise Education expertise when another delegation from the Tanzanian Institute of Education visited the authority." The Tanzanian project's own targets for 2011-2015 (Evidence 2) are that the programme will train: 20 National curriculum developers; 400 primary and secondary teachers (working in 40 schools) and therefore have impact on 8,000 learners — all of whom will be trained in the enterprise model of education elaborated in References 1-3.

3) Slovenian entrepreneurial education project: In this project the training of the trainers (also delivered by Coyle) took place before 2008, but the latest evidence provided (Evidence 7), shows that between 2008 and 2013, 103 Slovenian Vocational Educational and Training schools have offered courses based on the enterprise model (out of a total of 129 similar schools in the whole country) — courses that are modelled on References 1-3. As Evidence 7 suggests about a specific example of the impact of DUBS research: "In 2009, from January to June, 15 teachers from VET [the Slovenian National Institute for Vocational Education and Training] schools from health and social care and from chemistry schools were trained to introduce entrepreneurship. The materials [based on Durham research]: `Working for Myself' and `Experiencing the Entrepreneurial Way of Life' were used to prepare and support teacher's...awareness of the culture of enterprising teaching and learning" (Evidence 7).

4) Samara, Russia: Here the DUBS enterprise education manuals are used by the International Market Institute for seminars for school principals and teachers. On the basis of 50-60 people trained per year from 2008, "around 300 teachers from around 100 schools of Samara... were trained with many elements of entrepreneurial education" (Testimonial 2).

5) Application in universities: Finally, although References 1-3 were primarily concerned with educational programmes in schools, similar concepts have also been widely applied in universities within at least three countries in the REF period. Thus, the impact of DUBS research can be seen, for example, in Indonesia. Bogor University of Agriculture's programme is heavily based upon the Durham concepts and materials. Delivery is underway to meet 2011- 15 targets of training 40 staff and 400 students directly through the enterprise model, and `the whole university indirectly' (Evidence 2).Similar projects are also being carried out within 13 newly established universities in Ethiopia between 2011 and 2015; four Liberian universities between 2012 and 2018 (Evidence 2).

In summary, DUBS research concerning the enterprise approach to education has both reach and significance. The reach can be demonstrated by the fact that the model has been applied in at least seven countries during the REF period and at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education. As senior inspector for Gateshead Education Authority puts it in Testimonial 1: `Enterprise Education should be a critical component of every child's education whether in Gateshead, the UK or any country of the world.' The significance can be shown by the numbers of teachers trained in the approach since 2008 — a minimum of 775 — who can then go on to teach children using the enterprise approach. The impact on the children themselves can be demonstrated, in part, by the hits on the various Virtual Centre website platforms (estimated to be 10 million hits in total on the relevant platforms within the VC since 2008 — Evidence 5). Finally, versions of the manuals have been widely used since the 1980s and since then have continued to be revised and used by hundreds of schools across the world during the REF period. This being the case in itself shows both the reach and significance of the impact of DUBS research in to enterprise education.

Sources to corroborate the impact


  1. Virtual Centre Guide: Includes screenshots and description for clients. Log in details to a VC platform available on request.
  2. Summary of international enterprise and entrepreneurship projects utilising DUBS models/materials.
  3. Enterprise library detailing the Manuals used in different UK subject areas — copies of individual manuals available on request.
  4. List of schools with the virtual platform, taken from the virtual centre platform webpage.
  5. Statistics provided on downloads by the MD of the Virtual Centre.
  6. Tanzania Educational Manuals, developed by the MD of the VC.
  7. Supporting evidence on Slovenian project: "Sustainability of DUBS/Slovenian enterprise education projects".


  1. Retired senior inspector for Gateshead Education Authority, UK (email 29th August 2013)
  2. Coordinator, DUBS/Enterprise Education project for secondary schools in Samara, Russia (email 11th June 2013)