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Report by Chinese education delegation to the UK

BritCham / CBBC
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The following is an abridged version of a report by the Chinese National Centre for Education Development & Research and Zhejiang Vocational College of Trade & Industry following a visit to the UK involving the China-Britain Business Council.
 
From late November to early December 2015, a delegation from the National Centre for Education Development & Research, under the Ministry of Education, and Zhejiang Vocational College of Trade & Industry paid a four-day visit to the UK to promote cooperation between entrepreneurially focused universities, to exchange ideas on fostering an entrepreneurial culture and to learn about the British teaching model.
 
1. Summary of the visit
This was a productive visit. Over the four days, we visited the National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education (NCEE); the International Centre for Transformational Entrepreneurship at Coventry University; the International Employer Liaison Department of the University of Warwick; Warwick Business School; and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. At NCEE, we spoke to chief executive Prof Keith Burnley, who gave us an overview of entrepreneurship education (EE) in the UK, including key projects and outcomes. At Coventry, we learned about its 2006-2015 EE programme, its EE syllabus and what proportion of the faculty is engaged in entrepreneurship. The two sides also held preliminary discussions on how to work together on entrepreneurship education in universities. 
 
2. Entrepreneurship education in the UK
 
(a) A collaborative system
The UK’s entrepreneurship education system is a multilateral, collaborative model comprising government, academia, banks, businesses and organisations. In 1987, the UK government’s Higher Education Enterprise Plan marked the start of government-directed entrepreneurship programmes in universities. On the back of this, a succession of institutions began research into EE and a variety of entrepreneurship programmes were launched in universities. 
 
The government allocated money to set up a variety of enterprise funds, and universities designated enterprise zones for students; banks offered the students interest-free or low-interest loans, and businesses matched students with real projects. Other organisations such as NCEE and Enterprise Educators UK (EE UK) have boosted and bound the process together, connecting institutions, government and businesses, effectively pooling resources and giving impetus to the implementation of EE programmes. Thanks to this successful collaboration, the UK has fostered an effective, interactive EE ecosystem.
 
(b) Theory combined with practice
All of the universities we visited emphasised the unification of theory and practice; all of their incubators were located in technology parks. Courses are designed to be systematic and specific, and tailored entrepreneurship courses are built in at different academic levels and across different disciplines. Staff-student start-ups are common – take Warwick, for example, where some 150 students a year start their own business. 
 
(c) An international outlook
Entrepreneurship education in the UK is not confined to regional or even national borders, but has an international outlook, which can be seen in both the students and the courses. Warwick’s students come from around the world, including over 50 mainland Chinese, and international or inter-regional mixes are favoured in group projects. 
 
(d) Practical work through Enterprise Centres
The UK was the first country to establish Enterprise Centres within its universities, and they are now found in almost all of them. The centres are the main administrative bodies for entrepreneurship education in UK higher education, linking institutions with the community at large.
 
(e) Widespread and systematic entrepreneurship education
As a general rule, the British are passionate about private entrepreneurship. The popular reach of entrepreneurship education is best seen in the fact that 64 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds think starting your own business is a good career choice, although most start-ups are established by 35 to 44-year-olds, and 80 per cent of people believe entrepreneurs enjoy high social standing. EE in Britain begins at the age of five, with different courses designed for different age groups. A survey showed that around a third of young Britons were thinking of starting their own business, or had already done so, and that 53 per cent of undergraduates hoped to become entrepreneurs.
 
Entrepreneurship education in the UK makes use of partnerships, curricular standards, groups, expert advice and evaluation processes to make up a practical system with a sound framework, strong teamwork and scientific teaching methods.
 
(f) Commercialisation of research
The commercialisation of research covers the whole process from conception to implementation. Research is drawn out into society at large, chiefly by way of patenting and protecting intellectual property and creating new businesses. Importantly, universities and research institutes actualise the value of their findings and technological advances by finding business solutions.
 
3. Observations
 
(a) How to strengthen ties in entrepreneurship education and exchange between universities
The main difference between the UK and China in terms of EE lies in their contrasting understanding and definition of entrepreneurship. There is also variance in the implementation of EE in universities as regards the way it is organised, the hierarchy of administrative bodies, and the facilities. Each side sees the system in its own way. Therefore strengthening inter-campus exchange and drawing on each other’s merits would help to boost EE as well as the development of EE-focused universities.
 
(b) How to strengthen cooperation between government, academia and business
In the holistic system that the UK has built around entrepreneurship, one thing we can learn from, in particular, is the power of government, universities and businesses working with social and commercial organisations – industry associations or NGOs, for example – so as to form a support network which has backing from across society. These social organisations thus become a vital link in the chain, cementing and facilitating interaction between the various departments of government, academia and business to help communication and to build bridges for effective cooperation.
 
(c) How to boost tech-based entrepreneurship
Businesses are the engine of tech-based entrepreneurship in the UK; major tech companies set up directly in university enterprise parks, taking advantage of a constant stream of staff and students who can participate in new ventures. Teams of researchers working in tandem with business people, as well as R&D projects which are aligned with business models, make for high-quality new ventures. Meanwhile the companies in these enterprise parks attract a constant flow of researchers looking to embark on second-stage ventures or to start new ventures alongside their current posts.
 
4. Recommendations
 
(a) Establish a framework for Sino-UK exchange on innovation and entrepreneurship education
We recommend that the National Centre for Education Development & Research should lead the way by signing a cooperation agreement with Britain’s NCEE. The agreement should focus on establishing cooperation to research the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, and on developing entrepreneurially-minded institutions and promoting innovation and entrepreneurship education in the two countries. It should explore the objectives, the curriculum, the evaluation system and the support structure. This would create a new Sino-UK entrepreneurship education system enabling experts to exchange ideas and institutions to work together.
 
(b) Train Chinese innovation and entrepreneurship educators
The greatest obstacle that EE currently faces in China is the lack of teaching resources. The majority of teachers have no personal experience of starting a business, and have no systematic training in how to teach it. The UK has an established training system and can mediate between British and Chinese institutions to instigate a teacher-training programme.
 
In January 2016, following this report, Mr Han Min, deputy director-general of the Ministry of Education’s National Centre for Education Development & Research, agreed to move forward with its proposals, saying: “The recommendations in this report are valuable. We provisionally accept them and will step up cooperation with the UK.” 
 
For further information please contact CBBC Consultant Jane Zhang in Beijing: jane.zhang@cbbc.org.cn
 
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