To read this content please select one of the options below:

Breathing space – graduate entrepreneurs’ perspectives of entrepreneurship education in higher education

Mary Fenton (3U Partnership, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland)
Almar Barry (Department of Geography, St Patrick's College, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 4 November 2014




The purpose of this paper is to examine graduate entrepreneurs’ perspectives of entrepreneurship education (EE) in higher education institutions (HEIs) in their formation as entrepreneurs.


This qualitative research study was conducted amongst 30 graduate entrepreneurs in the South East of Ireland, who established their businesses between 2001 and 2010 (inclusive).


The findings challenge the notion that more EE provision at undergraduate level will lead to greater numbers of graduate entrepreneurs. This is because: HEIs are more focused on preparing students for employment; the academic nature of undergraduate EE; and a “one size fits all” approach to EE fails to recognise the heterogeneity of learners’ needs. However, the findings show that graduate entrepreneurs believed that EE at graduate level provided a welcome “breathing space” to develop their business.

Research limitations/implications

This research was undertaken within a unique, regional environment, therefore, it is influenced by regional policies, priorities and factors and its main HEI. It does not include either other regional, national or international case studies.

Practical implications

This research paper provides a conceptual framework or guiding principles for good practice in EE in higher education to include: an enterprise-centric, HEI; a graduated approach to EE; pracademics; a challenging learning environment; authentic experience; and links with the wider enterprise community.


This research paper offers a nuanced understanding of EE in higher education. Moreover, it contributes to the advancement of knowledge, practice and policy by proposing a conceptual framework for EE in higher education to meet the diverse needs of future graduate entrepreneurs.



Fenton, M. and Barry, A. (2014), "Breathing space – graduate entrepreneurs’ perspectives of entrepreneurship education in higher education", Education + Training, Vol. 56 No. 8/9, pp. 733-744.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles