Sheffield University Halts Business Scheme… Because It’s Too Successful

The University of Sheffield have called halt to a business scheme they started for students, as it proved too successful!

The scheme encouraged students to take their own initiative and have a year out to start their own business. The problem is, the ‘trial-run’ students were so successful in starting their businesses that 2 out of 3 of them didn’t return to university.

It would be assumed that if a student achieved success in entrepreneurship, this should be considered a positive. Business masterminds such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and the late Steve Jobs both failed to complete their degrees, but are in no aspect deemed as failures.

However, the government produces a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), in which universities have to adhere to reporting statistics of the completion of degrees as a form of success. The snag is, failing to finish your degree in order to pursue your own business isn’t under the umbrella of triumphant teaching within universities. It massively impacts statistics. Therefore, Sheffield university have decided to cancel the scheme.

Sheffield have altered the outline of the scheme, intending to embed enterprise more thoroughly throughout their teachings, whilst continuing to omit the year out scheme.  

They still consider the course successful even if students drop out as they consider their success a testament to the teaching in the years that they did study at the university. However, the cancellation of the scheme trumps that, proving that the importance of their TEF statistics supersede their students.

A conflict of interests could explain why universities don’t push entrepreneurial schemes.

Only 2% of self-employed people reported to finding out about self-employed routes via their university, an extremely poor statistic, considering 15.1% of our labour force is comprised of self-employed people. Knowledge of entrepreneurship is low, partially due to a lack of advertising of the opportunities as well as the fact that it clashes massively with the need to fund universities. The privatisation and business approach applied to universities and educational institutes alike mean students are paying consumers. A decline in the uptake of students due to negative statistics would heavily affect the university.

The BBC described further education institutions as a ‘marketplace’, highly susceptible to the ever-altering income from tuition fees and recruitment.

Case in point being an unnamed UK university having to be given a £1m loan by the Office for Students (OFS) to avoid having to declare bankruptcy. This further outlines how delicate university finances are. The BBC described further education institutions as a ‘marketplace’, highly susceptible to the ever-altering income from tuition fees and recruitment. This emphasises the action of universities not fully advertising all aspects of entrepreneurial enterprises they offer, otherwise universities similar to Sheffield could end up with faltering completion numbers.

According to The Times, MPs report that the criteria should be changed, to include students leaving to start their own businesses. This would hopefully encourage universities to support students in starting up their own businesses. This isn’t alluding that universities are stagnating student’s ambitions to date, but it means they are less helpful delivering truly impactful and helpful schemes in enterprise.

It’s evident that TEF need to change their criteria, but more importantly, we should be addressing the desperation of universities to maintain adequate ratings and therefore funding at the expense of alumni success.

Beatriz Casarrubios Lopez

Image: [Pixabay]