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Threshold concepts in entrepreneurship – the entrepreneurs’ perspective

Lucy Hatt (Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 8 January 2018

Issue publication date: 31 January 2018




The purpose of this paper is to present research into the entrepreneurs’ perspective of concepts critical to thinking as an entrepreneur, in order to inform enterprise and entrepreneurship course design in higher education.


Taking a social constructivist approach, using a Delphi-style method, semi-structured interviews with entrepreneurs were conducted, transcribed, thematically coded and analysed, and a list of candidate threshold concepts was drawn up. Two rounds of Delphi were conducted with the entrepreneur panel and consensus was reached on a final collection of threshold concepts in entrepreneurship.


The threshold concepts identified are “I can create value” (or self-efficacy), “I see opportunities” (or opportunity), “I can manage risk” (or risk), “I know what’s important” (or focus) and “I take action” (or impact).

Research limitations/implications

Entrepreneurship is generally regarded as an important factor in economic growth, and higher education is an appropriate place for the development of entrepreneurship. However, there is a lack of consensus regarding how best to educate students for entrepreneurship in higher education or indeed what educating students for entrepreneurship really means. Identifying threshold concepts in entrepreneurship using the lived experience of entrepreneurs is likely to open up new and more effective approaches to teaching this multidisciplinary subject area.


This study contributes to the call for more research-grounded discussion on the quality of entrepreneurship education initiatives, particularly in relation to what makes pedagogical innovations effective by suggesting five entrepreneurship threshold concepts. These entrepreneurship threshold concepts can be used to set out a structure for the design and (re)development of enterprise and entrepreneurship curricula, as well as enabling more constructively aligned assessments.



Hatt, L. (2018), "Threshold concepts in entrepreneurship – the entrepreneurs’ perspective", Education + Training, Vol. 60 No. 2, pp. 155-167.



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