Unemployed graduate to the next Jack Ma? A counter-narrative to the entrepreneurship movement in higher education

Ewan Thomas Mansell WRIGHT, Siyuan FENG, Yajun ZHENG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

Abstract

An entrepreneurship movement has advanced into higher education. There is a growing expectation that universities demonstrate an economic contribution to the public good by instilling students with entrepreneurialism and providing guidance for starting businesses. In China, the state has launched a ‘Mass Entrepreneurship and Innovation’ initiative as part of a national development strategy, which required universities to increase resources for entrepreneurial activities and for all students to complete an entrepreneurship education course. This article applies new institutionalism theory to illuminate how the mass entrepreneurship initiative filtered down to universities and students. Data were analysed from policy documents and interviews (n = 100) with final-year undergraduates in the social sciences and humanities at two public universities in Guangdong Province. The universities were found to conform ceremonially to the institutionally legitimated initiative, but entrepreneurship provisions for undergraduates remained limited. At the same time, mass entrepreneurship was found to be disconnected from student experiences. One group (the ‘avoiders’) perceived entrepreneurship as unfeasible or a remote possibility in their lives. A second group (the ‘venturers’) were unprepared for starting a business and described hardships resulting from their failures. The findings provide a counter-narrative to the entrepreneurship movement and raise ethical questions about the mass promotion of entrepreneurship to students without due consideration to the risks. Copyright © 2021 The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHigher Education
Early online date07 Apr 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 07 Apr 2021

Citation

Wright, E., Feng, S., & Zheng, Y. (2021). Unemployed graduate to the next Jack Ma? A counter-narrative to the entrepreneurship movement in higher education. Higher Education. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s10734-021-00709-4

Keywords

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Higher education
  • New institutionalism
  • Students
  • China

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