Chapter 4. Building entrepreneurial capacity in Poland through teaching and learning

This chapter assesses the teaching of entrepreneurship in Polish higher education institutions (HEIs). It covers teaching across all faculties using formal and informal methods. Good practice methods and key challenges are identified. The analysis draws on case studies of seven universities in Warsaw, Gdansk, Elblag and Lublin, a student survey in these universities and a broader survey of all HEI leaders in Poland. The chapter also recommends actions for policy makers and universities to strengthen entrepreneurship education.


4.1. Introduction

The higher education system can play a key role in the creation and dissemination of an entrepreneurial culture in society. Entrepreneurship education helps develop the entrepreneurial spirit and initiatives that students need to detect, evaluate and capture attractive value-creation opportunities. This entrepreneurial spirit and initiative is increasingly sought by employers, including large companies, non-governmental organisations, and governments, and are critical for graduates who are considering creating new ventures themselves.

Higher education systems are increasingly developing entrepreneurship education programmes internationally. In the United States, only 15 universities in 1970 – including Harvard – offered courses or programmes dedicated to entrepreneurship. The vast majority of current entrepreneurship education offers began in the 1990s. In Europe, the movement mainly started at the turn of the century but is becoming more common. Today, higher education institutions (HEIs) try to teach entrepreneurship not only through dedicated courses, but also within traditional classes.

Entrepreneurship in education can certainly not be reduced to new venture creation, as it has sometimes been suggested. According to Kuratko (2005), “an entrepreneurial perspective” can and probably must be developed among students. While this may result in more students creating their own businesses, it may also change the attitudes and behaviours of others. This mindset can be useful within or outside businesses or other organisations, private or public, profit-oriented or socially-oriented.

Entrepreneurship requires adapted teaching methods that may be inter-disciplinary and interactive. However, HEIs are often locked into their disciplinary structures, entrepreneurship classes are often school-specific and only offered to students from one or sometimes two disciplines. Apart from business schools, engineering schools increasingly often offer entrepreneurship courses. However, truly interdisciplinary entrepreneurship education programmes have only emerged in a few universities within the European Union.

The increasing number of entrepreneurial education courses and programmes since the turn of the century has resulted in teachers and researchers reflecting on the most effective educational methods to teach entrepreneurship. However, no single dominant approach has emerged. Teaching methods have to be adapted to the specific objectives followed by each programme or course (Gibb, 1993). Fayolle (1999) classifies programmes and courses into three categories corresponding to distinct types of objectives.

The first category relates to awareness raising programmes. This category of courses targets the students’ community at large and aims at increasing their entrepreneurial spirit and culture, as well as at exposing them to entrepreneurial experiences and opportunities. They are often at the undergraduate level.

The second category relates to training programmes or courses and targets students who aspire to launch some kind of entrepreneurial activities, but generally have not yet identified a specific activity. Such programmes or courses aim to provide students with specific tools to allow them to develop entrepreneurial attitudes and aptitudes, and to be prepared to start or buy a new business or to develop new activities within existing businesses in the near distant future.

The last category relates to support programmes or courses and targets students who have already identified a potential business opportunity and who are looking for personalised support and advice to help them to capture that specific opportunity and build their project.

To each of these categories corresponds an adapted educational approach. Awareness raising courses draw students’ attention to the economic importance of entrepreneurship and of its potential as an occupational choice. Such courses typically require the students to learn the models and theories that have been developed in that field, with a certain degree of conceptualisation, which is a prerequisite for any university-based approach (Fiet, 2001). Besides learning concepts related to entrepreneurship, small business management and intrapreneurship, such courses can help students to discover what launching a business means, and whether it could be a potential career option for them.

Entrepreneurial training programmes go beyond traditional knowledge “transmission-reception” teaching approaches. Active involvement of students and problem-based approaches are important features of such programmes, which aim to achieve the right combination of theoretical concepts and practical business problems. The courses may involve real-life problem solving, direct interactions with entrepreneurs, or business games. Such educational tools allow students to learn, exchange, debate and negotiate around business challenges, as well as to make decisions and to take initiatives in high-uncertainty and fast-moving environments. Such programmes, like any learner-centred programme, tend to require more important teaching resources and supervision and are better suited for smaller groups of students than traditional academic programmes.

The third category of programmes, support programmes or courses, typically require a more individualised approach, fine-tuned for the specific characteristics of the business opportunity identified by each student or team and involving a significant amount of coaching, networking and data gathering. This type of learning experience can, for example, be achieved through a student’s final thesis or a business plan competition.

While these three categories involve different objectives and means, in all three cases students are confronted with issues related to disciplines ranging from economics, management and law to psychology, sociology and, often, technology. The corresponding educational approaches, while different in nature and scope in the three categories, must therefore all involve a strong interdisciplinary dimension. They must do so not only in addressing in parallel each of those fields, but also in combining them transversally, in the same way as the different aspects of a business must be managed simultaneously by real-life entrepreneurs.

Business schools are no longer the sole provider of entrepreneurship education. Enterprise and entrepreneurship education is increasingly provided within other disciplines. There are several different models that have been used by HEIs to generalise entrepreneurship education throughout the institution (Carey and Matlay, 2011):

  • a central entrepreneurship centre;

  • an ambassador approach where individuals are identified within each faculty and champion entrepreneurship within them;

  • a business school-led approach which delivers entrepreneurship courses in the different faculties;

  • ad hoc courses delivered without an entrepreneurship centre or links to a business school or other faculties; and

  • entrepreneurship education can also be provided within the curricula or outside of it.

Finally, this also raises the question of the appropriate assessment method for entrepreneurship courses (Carey and Matlay, 2011). Traditional examinations do not work very well for entrepreneurship courses. There is no dominant approach to alternative assessment methods. However, it is increasingly common for students to be required to pitch their ideas. Since students are dealing with real-world situations, practitioners sometimes take part in such evaluations.

4.2. Analysis and findings

Entrepreneurship learning outcomes are broadly defined across the higher education system

In 2011, Poland introduced the National Qualifications Framework for Higher Education (NQF for HE), which provides HEIs with autonomy to develop their programmes’ content. The NQF for HE contains a broad set of generic, discipline-specific learning outcomes (knowledge, skills and social competence). It is composed of eight different disciplines. In most of these, there are two explicitly entrepreneurship-related learning outcomes:

  • “ability to think and act entrepreneurially”; and

  • “knowledge of general rules for establishing and developing individual entrepreneurial activities using subject-specific knowledge related to the study programme”.

However, there is no legal obligation for HEIs to include these intended learning outcomes in the curricula. The detailed intended learning outcomes, pedagogy, and assessment methods are up to the HEIs to develop. Therefore, each HEI can develop its own approach to developing entrepreneurial skills and mindsets.

The HEI Leader Survey indicates that more than half of responding HEIs offer entrepreneurship education at the bachelor level, 42% at the master’s level and 13% at the PhD level. The HEIs estimate that nearly 45% of students are reached by entrepreneurship education, which is very high relative to other European Union countries. However, this estimate may overstate the reach since responding HEIs appear to be more likely than others to offer entrepreneurship education.

But entrepreneurship education offers are highly variable across HEIs

The understanding of entrepreneurship education and how it will be implemented is different from one university to the other, and even from one faculty to the other. In the case study HEIs, most, especially outside of business schools, viewed entrepreneurship as management (generally), or small business management. Students met could not distinguish between entrepreneurship and management. In some HEIs, the understanding of entrepreneurship was limited to technological entrepreneurship. This technology bias de facto excludes a wide range of entrepreneurial opportunities in other potential domains of creation – for example in the retail or service sectors – that could otherwise have been pursued. In other HEIs, entrepreneurship was even sometimes confused with economics.

In some HEIs, all faculties offer entrepreneurship courses. However, the content can be very different from one faculty to the other. In some cases it focusses on general management and project management. It is often taught by faculty coming from schools of management or by someone from the business world.

One of the most comprehensive offers is at KU Kozminski University. It offers bachelor students in Management a Major in Entrepreneurship. Many courses compulsory for BA Entrepreneurship Major students are also offered as electives for other bachelor students, as well as MSc students. At the MSc level, there are also specialised entrepreneurship courses, as well as one general course dealing with macroeconomic aspects of entrepreneurship. At the PhD level there are two entrepreneurship courses, one dealing with methodological issues in entrepreneurship research and a second one involving a PhD as an entrepreneurship project. At the BA level, the courses include Principles of Entrepreneurship, New Venture Creation, Family Business Development, Entrepreneurial Networks or Sociology of Entrepreneurship. At the MSc level, these include Entrepreneurship and New Venture Development, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, Small Enterprise Consulting, New Venture Financing, International Entrepreneurship, Internet-based Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurial Marketing or Creativity and Innovativeness.

At the WUT Warsaw University of Technology, there is at least one entrepreneurship course offered within most departments at all levels (BA, MSc, PhD). These courses are either about innovation (BA) or technology entrepreneurship (MSc, PhD).

The SGH Warsaw School of Economics offers general entrepreneurship courses at the BA, MSc and postgraduate levels. At the postgraduate levels, they offer specialisations in starting a business and in innovation.

At the UG University of Gdansk, there is currently no programme dedicated to entrepreneurship.

At the GUT Gdansk University of Technology, all faculties offer management/entrepreneurship electives and students can take five credits (one course) in topics like fundamentals of management, business planning, negotiations, business psychology. Again, this shows that the understanding of entrepreneurship can be quite broad and that some courses are rather linked to general management.

At PWSZ The State University of Applied Sciences in Elblag, management education is embedded in the programmes of all departments.

On the other hand, PhD students in Poland sometimes complain about a lack of entrepreneurship education within PhD programmes. In the past, there has been only one example of an entrepreneurial training programme specifically designed for young professors and PhD students, but this initiative has ended (Box 4.1).

Box 4.1. Innovator course, KU Kozminski University (2007-09)

INNOVATOR was a high technology-focused entrepreneurship course for young university teachers and PhD students in natural sciences. The project was sponsored by the Polish National Science Foundation. 50 young scientists received training and professional advice. The best projects received further financial support from the National Science Foundation. Several leading spin-off companies emerged from INNOVATOR, one currently being quoted on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. Another interesting outcome of the INNOVATOR programme was the social high-tech project named Bank Mleka, a non-profit organisation offering technologically advanced storage and distribution of natural human breast milk for babies. The INNOVATOR programme stressed some systemic weaknesses in education for potential academic high-tech entrepreneurs. The participants, on average approximately 30 years old, were exposed to entrepreneurial thinking for the first time. The impact, i.e. the number and quality of high-tech start-ups, could potentially have been much higher if INNOVATOR participants had received basic entrepreneurship training at the bachelor or master level.

The HEI Leader Survey indicates that most HEIs have taken measures to increase participation in entrepreneurship activities, through increased communication about entrepreneurship programmes and courses, more course offers, and more guest speakers (Figure 4.1) (although the survey also reveals that guest lecturers rarely intervene for more than 25% of the teaching share). Overall few HEIs (21%) indicated that they will allocate more credits to entrepreneurship courses to entice students. However, there is a stark contrast in willingness to provide credits between public HEIs and non-public HEIs, where 50% indicated that they will allocate credits to increase student participation.

Figure 4.1. Increasing participation in entrepreneurship education activities
“What measures does your HEI implement to increase participation rates in entrepreneurship education activities?”

Note: Total number of respondents was 19, of which 15 were public HEIs, 4 were non-public HEIs; 6 were case study HEIs and 13 were not case study HEIs.

Source: OECD (2016), OECD HEI Leader Survey Poland.

Other good practices include original entrepreneurship courses that reflect some specific features of the local economic environment, which had been developed at several of the case study HEIs (Box 4.2). Furthermore, intellectual property (IP) is a central theme for most of the HEIs, and is seen as an important topic for future entrepreneurs, particularly including PhD students. UMCS Maria Curie-Sklodowska University, for instance, provides all students with 15 hours of mandatory training on IP protection.

Box 4.2. Tailoring courses to the students’ needs and to the environment

Some of the universities visited offer original or atypical entrepreneurship courses. In Elblag, the State University of Applied Sciences has a special programme in entrepreneurship of security, which prepares their students to open their own bodyguards or detectives business. In the faculty of law at UMCS Maria Curie-Sklodowska University, students are taught how to start and manage a law firm. This is also a good practice showing that these universities/programmes are flexible in their approach to teaching entrepreneurship and tailor their courses to their students’ needs and economic context.

Teaching and evaluation methods remain very traditional

The pedagogical format for most of the entrepreneurship courses offered at the case study HEIs is rather traditional and based on a knowledge transmission-reception pedagogical model. Both the HEI Leader Survey (see Figure 2.6 in Chapter 2) and the case study visits show that traditional lectures and inviting guest-speakers are the dominant teaching methods for entrepreneurship. However, the case study HEIs appear to be increasing their use of more active learning methods, including problem-based learning, business plan writing, firm creation simulation and idea generation as part of their pedagogy.

These active learning methods are popular with students. The students met during the case study visits indicated that they would like more workshops, group work, exposure to business people, and soft skills (e.g. leadership, soft skills). Further, the HEInnovate Student Survey confirms these observations. It also indicates that more than half of student respondents have not have an opportunity to start an entrepreneurial project but would like to (Figure 4.2).

Figure 4.2. Teaching methods sought by students
“From the teaching methods you did not come across yet, which are the three you would like to see introduced in your study programme?”

Note: 1 743 students responded to this question.

Source: OECD (2016b), OECD HEInnovate Student Survey Poland.

This traditional approach is also apparent in student evaluation methods. Evaluation of students for entrepreneurship courses is still often based on final exams that test theoretical knowledge. This is not the most appropriate approach for entrepreneurial training courses or entrepreneurship support programmes which have the objective of developing entrepreneurial skills and competences. Finding more adapted methods for assessing this type of programme is a challenge that many HEIs face around the world. Among the case study HEIs in Poland, some are responding by allowing students to prepare a thesis on starting a business (PWSZ University of Applied Science in Elblag, GUT Gdansk University of Technology and WUT Warsaw University of Technology). This is a good practice that relates to the third type of entrepreneurship education programmes, i.e. support programmes for students who have already identified a business opportunity and are looking for personalised support to study its feasibility. The assessment of this type of programme could be achieved through a business plan competition, but is likely to be even better implemented through a final thesis, because the latter usually lasts many months, if not a whole year, and involves many interactions with the thesis director.

Teaching continues to be faculty-centred

Entrepreneurship is interdisciplinary by nature, but the academic environment in Poland (and elsewhere) is still not very favourable for interdisciplinary projects. For example, it is extremely difficult to get professors to deviate from their disciplinary framework. Assessment and evaluation systems for professors and criteria for promotion tend to favour research over teaching and, in particular, strictly disciplinary research. Rewarding interdisciplinary teaching approaches therefore remains challenging, not only in Poland, but across all higher education systems.

This does not mean that entrepreneurship education is not offered outside of business schools. Nearly two-thirds of HEIs responding to the HEI Leader Survey reported that they offer entrepreneurship curriculum to students outside of business and economics programmes or to students whatever their discipline (Figure 4.3).

Figure 4.3. Share of HEIs offering entrepreneurship education to students
“Are entrepreneurship curriculum activities offered to ...?”

Note: Total number of respondents was 16, of which 13 were public HEIs, 3 were non-public HEIs; 4 were case study HEIs and 12 were not case study HEIs.

Source: OECD (2016), OECD HEI Leader Survey Poland.

However, most Polish HEIs appear to use approaches that are still very faculty-centred and almost never university-wide. Even within technical universities, the walls between engineering schools, for instance, can be quite high. Entrepreneurship courses tend to be faculty-specific (entrepreneurship for biologists for instance), and often, deans do not seem to be too enthusiastic to change this.

On the other hand, some career offices (including those at GUT Gdansk University, UMCS Maria Curie-Sklodowska University, SGH Warsaw School of Economics, and WUT Warsaw University of Technology) consider promoting entrepreneurship as part of their job. At UMCS Maria Curie-Skoldolwska University, for instance, the career office organises sessions on how to become an entrepreneur and how to set up an NGO. The various career offices also provide workshops on creativity, business planning, etc.

Entrepreneurship education activities appear to be well publicised to students across HEIs, with strong use of websites/forums, special events and social networks in particular (Figure 4.4).

Figure 4.4. Advertising entrepreneurship education activities
“How does your HEI advertise the entrepreneurship education activities that are organised outside study curricula/programmes or open across faculties?”

Note: Total number of respondents was 19, of which 15 were public HEIs, 4 were non-public HEIs; 6 were case study HEIs and 13 were not case study HEIs.

Source: OECD (2016), OECD HEI Leader Survey Poland.

There is a need to build a pool of Professors of Entrepreneurship

There appear to be relatively few professors in Poland with the title “Professor of Entrepreneurship”. For example, only around a half of HEIs that responded to the HEI Leader Survey reported that they have professors with this title.

Most entrepreneurship professors are not formally trained in entrepreneurship. Quite often, they are not part of entrepreneurship educators networks, nor do research in entrepreneurship. In part, this is related to the status of entrepreneurship as an academic discipline in Poland. Entrepreneurship does not seem to be viewed as a “real” academic discipline by most Polish professors. Although the field of entrepreneurship is recognised as being of fundamental importance for the economy, and although it is attracting an ever growing interest within the international scientific community, many appear to have troubles identifying it as a distinctive field of research. This undermines its scientific legitimacy, especially in the eyes of scholars outside, and sometimes inside, of business schools. Entrepreneurship seems to be a broad label under which a large variety of activities is housed in Poland.

Some of the case study HEIs have attempted to build legitimacy for entrepreneurship through various activities. One approach is through academic research. At the GUT Gdansk University of Technology, within the Faculty of Economics and Management, legitimacy of the field in the school was strengthened by research by some professors (e.g. on female entrepreneurship and on entrepreneurial intentions), which enabled them to gain internal recognition and then to become more ambitious in terms of programmes.

Alternatively, a number of programmes have aimed to improve the knowledge and skills of professors. This in turn can increase their visibility on campus if the experience is used to improve their teaching and research. One example is the Top 500 Innovators Programme. This programme allowed some young faculty members at the SGH Warsaw School of Economics to obtain formal training in entrepreneurship in the USA, carried out through the National Centre for Research and Development. Similarly, two professors at the WUT Warsaw University of Technology obtained formal training in entrepreneurship at the University of California, Berkeley and at MIT. These trainings helped them to teach current entrepreneurship hot topics, like lean start-up.

A second example is The Young Design Management project, also at the SGH Warsaw School of Economics. Launched in October 2010 and co-financed by the European Social Fund, the project aimed to increase the flexibility of teaching within undergraduate studies in Management (in two majors: Entrepreneurship and Project Management). The project is aimed at improving the qualifications of the academic staff. Actions in the Project included: i) research visits of staff in international academic centres for up to 5.5 months in order to participate as observers in selected research and teaching activities, thus increasing familiarity with modern pedagogical methods (case studies, discussions, simulations, interactive classes), and co-operation with international colleagues; and ii) participation in national and international conferences.

Finally, HEI leaders can be very important in creating an entrepreneurial culture and setting-up entrepreneurship programmes, especially if entrepreneurship is not seen as “academic enough”. Two good examples are the University of Applied Sciences in Elblag and KU Kozminski University. In Elblag, the Rector is a central figure in the community and has helped the HEI become entrepreneurially-oriented through his strong connections with the local business community and other key actors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem (e.g. incubators). KU Kozminski University was co-created by an academic and an entrepreneur who set up a centre for entrepreneurship from the beginning. It is much more focused on soft skills than other schools (e.g. public presentations; self-coaching; negotiation; intercultural skills, etc.). The centre for entrepreneurship is also responsible for outreach to the community, provides training for the community, organises large entrepreneurial projects, leads a national training programme for entrepreneurship professors, and writes policy direction papers destined to politicians. The members of the centre do research in entrepreneurship and publish in entrepreneurship journals. They also currently have five PhD students in entrepreneurship.

It is also important for professors to familiarise themselves with entrepreneurship through personal entrepreneurial experience, for example developing spin-off activities. The Polish legal framework does not put any restrictions on the activities that can be undertaken by professors inside or outside academia. These issues are usually subject to the HEI’s internal policy. The only legal restriction concerns employment in other HEIs as a member of their “minimum core staff”. However, professors’ evaluation is mainly based on research. The titles of Full Professor (professor zwyczajny) and Doktor habilitowany are mainly, if not exclusively, dependent upon research. Even if faculties have some autonomy in evaluating their staff and if entrepreneurial activities could be rewarded in some ways, opposition often comes from the professors themselves who tend to put disciplinary research at the core of their activities. Professors who have entrepreneurial projects start their firm independently from the university, often do not expect support from the university and have to work on top of their university activities. It is not taken into account for promotion, but nevertheless often it is seen positively by the university.

Students are active in shaping their own entrepreneurial learning

Students tend to turn towards out-of-class experiences to gain practical knowledge of entrepreneurship through student clubs that are supposed to be research-oriented, but, in practice, are often very business and entrepreneurially oriented. The HEInnovate Leader and Student Surveys show that extra-curricular activities have dramatically increased over the five last years. For some future entrepreneurs, this kind of experience replaces formal learning. Student clubs are an important activity for entrepreneurship experience, since students are required to run their own organisations, build relationships with people on and off-campus and seek support from academic staff when needed. This is teaching students to be entrepreneurial by building networks and drawing on the resources that they have.

4.3. Conclusions and recommendations

HEIs and professors need a clearer and broader understanding of entrepreneurship

There are numerous different definitions of entrepreneurship and, of course, this does not help when one needs to define the content of a course. However, most, if not all, definitions have four central concepts:

  • the entrepreneur: they can be the creator of a new organisation, the buyer of an existing one or even an employee developing new projects within an organisation;

  • the resources that will be used: these are necessarily limited and the entrepreneur must control them without necessarily owning them, to achieve his/her goals;

  • value creation: this implies the creation of any form of wealth (e.g. money, independence, power, self-esteem, social impact), not only for a stakeholder of the organisation, but also for the entrepreneur himself or the society as a whole. The concept of value is based on the perception of the entrepreneur and his/her motivations;

  • the opportunity: a central concept in entrepreneurship, which the entrepreneur will try to seize according to his/her motivations and expectations.

The scope of entrepreneurship support in Polish HEIs needs to be seen as going beyond new business creation in a restrictive sense to include entrepreneurial skills and activities in their widest sense, such as intrapreneurship, working for an established small business, NGOs, spin-offs, etc. and, more generally, the development of an entrepreneurial mind set. In line with these aims, the impact assessment of entrepreneurship education programmes needs to look beyond the measurement of the number of firms created by graduates.

The nature of entrepreneurship implies that it needs to be clearly differentiated from general management. Entrepreneurship needs to be recognised and understood as a separate academic discipline. This broad view should be initiated by department heads, deans, and other HEI leaders, as well as shared by entrepreneurship professors.

The Ministry of Science and Higher Education should encourage and support HEIs in developing entrepreneurship as an academic/scientific discipline

Raising the profile of entrepreneurship as an academic discipline in HEIs is a challenge in many countries since entrepreneurship is a relatively young field. It is especially a challenge in Poland where few entrepreneurship professors have degrees or formal training in entrepreneurship. Addressing this challenge can be achieved in several ways in parallel.

First, when hiring new entrepreneurship professors, candidates with formal training in entrepreneurship should be favoured. Ideally they should have PhDs in entrepreneurship.

Second, entrepreneurship education and research can be increasingly promoted and supported at the PhD level in Poland. This can be stimulated with research grants, for example.

Third, entrepreneurship professors and other professors who teach entrepreneurship should be offered entrepreneurship education training programmes on the development of teaching content and in delivery methods. Further, there is little training on supporting new business start-up projects. Training for existing academic staff could be provided in two levels – basic and advanced. Basic training would cover what entrepreneurship is and why it is important so that teachers have an understanding of why they are teaching entrepreneurship and how they can be successful. This needs to be complemented with more advanced training on pedagogy. There are several training programmes and networks that could be used to support training in Poland (see Box 4.3).

Box 4.3. International training networks for entrepreneurship educators



CONNEECT is an international network of universities that offers interactive training courses for academic entrepreneurship teachers to improve entrepreneurship education across Europe. Supported by the European Union, participants, and their associated institutions benefit from intense training programmes and easy access to the European entrepreneurship community. In interdisciplinary teams, best-practice entrepreneurship education is delivered by international experts, coaches and trainers. Idea exchange and network building takes place in open forums, closely linked to the global entrepreneurship scene. CONNEECT offers opportunities to learn, experience and design new teaching methods, materials and learning outcome assessment techniques to enhance entrepreneurial teaching impact.

Price Babson Symposium for Entrepreneurship Educators

The Symposia for Entrepreneurship Educators (SEE) have taught educators from institutions around the globe since 1984. They have trained over 3 200 academics and entrepreneurs from 750 academic institutions, government organisations, and foundations in 68 countries. The symposia include the Price-Babson Symposium for Entrepreneurship Educators held twice a year on Babson’s campus. The events aim at helping educators understand the importance of combining entrepreneurship theory and practice in teaching.

Relevance for Poland

Participation in international networks and training initiatives can expose Polish academic staff to new perspectives and broaden their understanding of entrepreneurship. These new perspectives can be fed into the courses to provide students with a broader entrepreneurship education. Participation in such networks and events also holds potential for generating new international opportunities in teaching and/or research.

Fourth, research is an important activity in Polish HEIs, yet very little research on entrepreneurship is undertaken. More support for entrepreneurship research is needed to increase interest among professors in entrepreneurship. An easy way to stimulate more entrepreneurship research would be to promote participation in international entrepreneurship conferences and to sponsor some professors to attend (Box 4.4). This could also be accomplished with the creation of an entrepreneurship research fund for Poland, support for participation in international entrepreneurship research projects, the creation of a national prize for entrepreneurship research and encouraging HEIs to create “Professors of Entrepreneurship” to give status to Polish entrepreneurship professors.

Box 4.4. European scientific network in entrepreneurship

The main European scientific association in entrepreneurship is the European Council for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ECSB). The network of ECSB’s members covers nearly the whole of Europe and has some 400 members in over 30 countries. Through its affiliation to the International Council for Small Business, the European network is also connected to the global academic and professional small business community. ECSB organises high-quality conferences for its members, such as the RENT conference in co-operation with EIASM, in order to facilitate and enhance the exchange of knowledge within the ECSB community.

HEIs should promote interdisciplinarity and co-operation among schools and professors from different disciplines/faculties

Polish higher education is increasingly becoming more interdisciplinary but there is room to go much further. Within HEIs there needs to be a clear message, if not a decision, coming from the top of the university to push faculties in this direction so that students have opportunities to interact and work with students from other programmes. This helps them develop team work and communication skills. Such programmes are also useful to build new relationships across academic staff, opening up new opportunities for interdisciplinary research. The Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium offers a model for interdisciplinary programmes that can be followed (Box 4.5).

Box 4.5. Interdisciplinary programmes at the Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium


Initiated in 1997 by the Rector of the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) and a major bank CEO, and equipped with substantial support from private companies, the Formation Interdisciplinaire en création d’entreprise (CPME) is an interdisciplinary initiative where students from almost all schools (management, law, engineering, physiotherapy, psychology, sciences, agronomy and liberal arts) of the comprehensive UCL are brought together in cross-disciplinary teams to create businesses. Teams consist of students coming from three different disciplines.

The original aim of the CPME programme was to stimulate new business creation. This was later broadened to include entrepreneurial skills and activities in their widest sense, i.e. intrapreneurship, working for SMEs, not-for-profit creation, spin-offs, business buy-outs and developing entrepreneurial mindsets at large. The programme is not a separate master’s degree but consists of a set of dedicated elective courses that are integrated into the corresponding master degrees from the eight different faculties. The CPME programme is managed in close collaboration with the faculty managing the parent degrees. It is spread across the last two years of the parent degree, where the second year master thesis project revolves around creating a new business based on the students’ own or an external business idea. Around 30 students are admitted each year, and the classes are taught in the evening in order to fit into the different programmes. The programme has a dedicated building and students have 24-hour access to these facilities, including computers, team rooms and other facilities. This creates a bonding effect among students, promoting knowledge exchange and collaboration across cohorts and disciplinary affiliations.

Approximately 20% to 25% of the students who graduated from the programme have created a firm.

Historical and current challenges are mainly related to the interdisciplinary nature of the programme, such as convincing colleagues in different schools at UCL of the importance of entrepreneurship and adhering to the varying assessment rules of each disciplinary framework. Difficulties in accepting a master thesis in the form of a business plan are an example of an issue related to assessment.

Relevance for Poland

This example illustrates how interdisciplinary entrepreneurship programmes can be designed and implemented by HEIs.

HEIs should integrate entrepreneurial activities and innovative entrepreneurial teaching methods within the evaluation and promotion systems of professors

A barrier in expanding entrepreneurship education is the incentive and reward system for HEIs and for academic staff. The enthusiasm for entrepreneurship observed within relevant Ministries, HEI stakeholders and professors is often shared by HEI management but they are in a difficult position in terms of acting on this enthusiasm because HEI funding is linked to research, which is not consistent with developing and implementing entrepreneurship activities. It is therefore important to set up incentive systems to motivate and reward faculty staff in supporting students interested in entrepreneurship, and acknowledge the academic value of research and activities in the entrepreneurship field. Successful approaches include reduction of teaching or increased workspace (i.e. laboratories).

HEIs should develop packages of entrepreneurship awareness-raising, training and support programmes

HEIs should develop the three different kinds of entrepreneurship education programmes identified above – entrepreneurship awareness-raising programmes, entrepreneurship training programmes, and entrepreneurship support programmes. The main gap is at the level of training programmes, which are still quite scarce in most universities. Awareness-raising programmes also need to be strengthened because, too often, they are still general management courses. Educators for these programmes need to be trained in entrepreneurship education and research, and encouraged to invest in novel pedagogies, like action-based education (Box 4.6), which also means departing from traditional exam-based evaluation methods. HEIs should also generalise the possibility of entrepreneurial theses for their students, i.e. theses about business plans, new venture creation, spin-off creations.

Box 4.6. Action-based education at Babson College, USA


Babson College (Boston, USA) is a leading school in entrepreneurial education in the USA. The College’s focus on entrepreneurship became an explicit emphasis in 1977. 100% of Babson students take entrepreneurship courses. About 14% of MBA students start businesses at graduation and, after five years, more than 50% are working in entrepreneurial or small firms.

Babson has been a pioneer in starting businesses as part of students’ coursework. Babson’s “Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship (FME)” course was started in 1996. First year undergraduate students have to start a business within this required course, which teaches them about opportunity recognition, finding resources, team development, value creation, entrepreneurial thinking and basic understanding of all business functions. The course blends theory and practice. The learning objectives of the course are to: practice entrepreneurship and generate economic and social value; make students understand the different functions of a business and their interactions; use information technology for decisions and learn its importance for all functions; and experience social responsibility and philanthropy by donating six hours minimum as well as their profits to a charity. Babson insists on the importance of placing such a course at the beginning and not at the end of the programme because this will help students to understand entrepreneurs and the firm before they go to more disciplinary areas. This also gives students more confidence by experiencing success and failure. They develop their own leadership style and knowledge about the importance of human resources.

The assumptions behind this method are that:

  • This kind of course can be used with novices or experts;

  • Entrepreneurship applies to any organisation. Success is not only about profit, but is idiosyncratic and multidimensional;

  • The method is first about doing, then learning, rather than the contrary; and

  • The environment is unpredictable.

Other Babson courses at the MBA level admit only students with a well-developed business concept, wanting to start their company at the latest immediately after graduation, and having been able to attract a mentor during an audition. Activities include the development of a timeline for launching the business, identification and meetings with customers, working with mentors, interacting with guest speakers, meetings with professors, discussions with other students, and identifying, attending, as well as reporting back. 15-20 volunteers serve each year as mentors and guest speakers. A team of two professors teaches this course. Mentors and guest speakers do not get paid.

Relevance for Poland

This example offers another model of activating students in entrepreneurship, complementing the example from the SGH Warsaw School of Economics (see Box 3.3 in Chapter 3). These models can be used by HEIs in Poland to engage students in an entrepreneurship learning experience.

Source: Neck, H.M. and P. G. Greene (2011), “Entrepreneurship Education: known worlds and new frontiers”, Journal of Small Business Management, Vol. 49, No. 1, pp. 55-70.

HEIs should continue to increasingly involve external stakeholders in designing and delivering entrepreneurship education

HEIs should work with the university’s environment and external stakeholders to develop entrepreneurship education programmes, including regional/local governments, chambers of commerce and financial institutions. In particular, there is a need to increase co-operation with alumni, venture capitalists, business angels and/or small businesses. Their participation in courses should be increased to include role-plays involving real world stakeholders. Real investors and entrepreneurs should be mobilised in classes, among other things, in order to evaluate students’ projects. Students should be encouraged to work on real ideas coming from the university labs (and leading to the creation of spin-offs) or from business people. External stakeholders should also be integrated in the bodies running entrepreneurship programmes (e.g. advisory boards). A successful approach is the Business Creation Lab at the University of Tromsø in Norway, which is focussed on supporting students with applied “real world” projects (Box 4.7).

Box 4.7. Developing entrepreneurial projects with the environment, University of Tromsø, Norway


The Business Creation and Entrepreneurship (BCE) programme at the University of Tromsø is a group-based master’s programme that offers students the tools to become entrepreneurs, innovators, and creative thinkers through an action-based curriculum involving real-life projects. The students’ aim is to found a business right after graduation or to become intrapreneurs within existing firms.

The first term is called the Business Creation Lab. The Lab’s main objective is to create a foundation for innovative project development in the second year and to teach how to bring knowledge-based ideas to the market. The first semester involves role-play exercises and group work. Students work on an idea from the start. The programme uses real ideas and real investors as part of the role-play. During the second term, students must choose one of three following options: i) they can develop their own idea (they can use the campus and all the faculties’ facilities and labs to develop it); ii) they can work on other people’s ideas, coming for instance from the idea bank which contains projects related with the scientific environment in the Tromsø region, primarily from the University, but also from the University Hospital and other affiliated research entities; iii) they can collaborate with an established company on creativity and innovation projects. In this last case, students will collaborate with BCE staff and industrial managers to design innovative solutions to real business problems. They will do in-depth field research, brainstorm sessions, prototyping, and eventually test their solutions in a team setting. The students apply the knowledge from their courses in the second and third term on the chosen idea or project. During the last term, they write their master thesis. They also learn presentation techniques, notably through real presentations to external stakeholders.

Relevance for Poland

This example offers a model for engaging students in entrepreneurial projects with other actors in the community. These projects could be short-term (e.g. start-up weekends), course work or thesis projects.

Source: Entrepreneurial Learning Forum, Chalmers University, 2012.

The Ministry of Science and Higher Education should encourage entrepreneurship through leadership training for Rectors, Vice-Rectors and Deans

The role of HEI leaders (e.g. Rectors, Vice-Rectors, Deans) in promoting entrepreneurship is of paramount importance. Their role is decisive in recognising entrepreneurship as an academic discipline, in making entrepreneurship part of an academic’s career aims, in promoting interdisciplinarity, in hiring entrepreneurship professors, in stimulating co‐operation between faculties, in starting new entrepreneurship programmes, in involving external stakeholders or in changing pedagogical approaches. If needed, they could also sometimes bypass Deans in implementing some of these decisions.

The Ministry of Science and Higher Education should support entrepreneurship professors with networks, training and platforms of good practice exchange

The Polish government also has a role in promoting entrepreneurship in higher education. It could adapt the professors’ promotion system in order to better integrate professors’ efforts towards starting their own company or towards developing new entrepreneurial pedagogies. The government should also try to put a follow-up to the Top 500 Innovators Programme into place for academic staff; the newly created network for past participants appears to have a low level of awareness so more efforts are needed to promote and animate it. The Academic Network of Entrepreneurship Educators (SEIPA) was also a very good resource for entrepreneurship educators in Poland. It targeted all kinds of schools, especially those not related to business education. Its activities included practical training and advice about launching academic programmes in entrepreneurship for students and academic staff, possibilities to exchange experiences and good practices during seminars and conferences, as well as through a dedicated electronic platform ( The government could encourage similar networks of entrepreneurship professors, platforms for best practice exchange, methods for teaching the teachers, etc.


Carey, C. and H. Matlay (2011), “Emergent issues in enterprise education: The educator’s perspective”, Industry and Higher Education, Vol. 25, No. 6, pp. 441-450.

Chalmers University (2012), Entrepreneurial Learning Forum,

Fayolle, A. (1999), “Orientation entrepreneuriale des étudiants et évaluation de l’impact des programmes d’enseignement de l’entrepreneuriat sur les comportements entrepreneuriaux des étudiants des grandes écoles de gestion françaises : étude exploratoire”, in Actes du premier Congrès de l’Académie de l’Entrepreneuriat, Lille (France), November, 180-191.

Fiet, J.O. (2001), “The Pedagogical Side of Entrepreneurship Theory”, Journal of Business Venturing, Vol. 16, Issue 2, pp. 101-117, available at SSRN:

Gibb, A. (1993), “Enterprise culture and education: Understanding enterprise education and its links with small business, entrepreneurship and wider educational goals”, International Small Business Journal, Vol. 11, No. 3.

Kuratko, D. (2005), “The Emergence of Entrepreneurship Education: Development, Trends, and Challenges”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Vol. 29, No. 5, pp. 577-598.

Neck, H.M. and P.G. Greene (2011), “Entrepreneurship Education: Known worlds and new frontiers”, Journal of Small Business Management, Vol. 49, No. 1, pp. 55-70.

OECD (2016), OECD HEI Leader Survey Poland.

OECD (2016b), OECD HEI Student Survey Poland.