What culture is your university? Have universities any right to teach entrepreneurialism?

Christopher John Bamber (Department of Business and Management, Organisational Learning Centre, Bolton, UK)
Enis Elezi (Teesside Business School, Teesside University, Middlesbrough, UK)

Higher Education Evaluation and Development

ISSN: 2514-5789

Article publication date: 14 January 2020

Issue publication date: 2 June 2020




The purpose of this paper is to discuss the need for universities to develop an entrepreneurial culture and assess higher education practitioners’ opinions of the culture of the university they are working in.


The research provides empirical data collected through a survey instrument originally used for a PhD research study; however, this paper focuses on the question set related to culture, which was based on the organisational culture model presented by Quinn in 1988.


The findings indicate that a number of respondents reported from a heterogeneous population of higher education institutes predominantly responded they were working within a hierarchy cultural type with many reporting a market cultural type. While respondents from a homogeneous group from a single university reported in the main they were working in a market-driven cultural type with the next main category being a clan culture.

Research limitations/implications

The study population reported in the main that there is predominantly a market culture in UK universities. However, this research has focussed entirely on respondents working within the UK HE sector, thus, has ignored potential differences that could be present within the global HE emerging markets.


The paper strengthens understanding of the critical importance of innovation and entrepreneurship in universities. Students, scholars, HE policy makers and HE practitioners can gather a range of insights pointed at university culture and rest assured in the main they are market focussed.



Bamber, C.J. and Elezi, E. (2020), "What culture is your university? Have universities any right to teach entrepreneurialism?", Higher Education Evaluation and Development, Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 19-32. https://doi.org/10.1108/HEED-09-2018-0021



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Christopher John Bamber and Enis Elezi


Published in Higher Education Evaluation and Development. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/legalcode


Many universities in the UK are providing entrepreneurial education (EE) while they themselves may, or may not, be exhibiting an entrepreneurial culture (EC). However, this research paper does not discuss whether there is an ethical, morale or acceptable issue to this, but rather delivers an examination of the organisational culture (OC) of UK higher education institutes (HEIs). The paper shows that the manifestation of an EC within a UK HEI would lead to better performance in league tables and a proactive response to the ever increasing competitive environment and provide solutions to predicted declining numbers of students. Thus, the premise of the paper is that an EC is of benefit to a UK HEI and developing entrepreneurial practices should be part of the HEI’s strategic intent.

There has been much research and discussion on the efficacy, implementation and success of EE in universities and within the paper the authors ask readers, from HEIs, to ask themselves two questions:


Is there a role for teaching entrepreneurship?


What is your university’s culture?

This paper discusses answers to these two questions through examination of EE and EC literature and further provides empirical research that indicates not all universities in the UK exhibit the same cultural type. Moreover, a study of survey responses from heterogeneous population, that arguable represents most UK universities, has been compared to a single university and results show clearly different opinions on their university’s culture.

Examining the global impact of entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is actively discussed in literature and is gaining continued debate, as to what it is, within university settings, but is nevertheless, associated by many with the exploitation of innovation and the creating of new businesses and therefore seizing of new business opportunities (Huarng and Yu, 2011; Gbadamosi, 2015). The need for new business opportunities comes from the changing economies and increasing competition imposed by new entrants to markets responding to needs and wants of more demanding customers. This complex situation is why many professors of enterprise like Eissenmann (2013) discuss entrepreneurship as having an elastic and emerging and developing definition which changes across different peoples’ perspectives. Likewise, according to Sorenson and Stuart (2008), it is really hard to define the term “entrepreneurship” in a precise and unambiguous manner. Nevertheless, Eissenmann offers a definition which was formulated by Professor Howard Stevenson, the supposed godfather of entrepreneurship studies at Harvard Business School. According to Stevenson, entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled. The crux of this definition means that in pursuit of opportunity entrepreneurs, must not only, have the capacity and willingness to develop, organise and manage a business venture but also manage any of its risks in order for their business to survive and excel. However, many published researchers have identified opportunity recognition as a core activity in an entrepreneurial process (Short et al., 2010).

Entrepreneurial spirit is, therefore, characterised by the processes of innovation and risk taking and is an essential part of a nation’s ability to succeed in an ever changing and increasingly competitive global marketplace. A number of scholars (Short et al., 2010) pointed out that an entrepreneurship mindset is the best solution for reducing the unemployment crisis because school-leavers are competing with more jobseekers for fewer vacancies, whereas employers have become very selective in their hiring of new staff. It is consequently seen by governments that a nation’s ability to succeed is dependant very much on the success of its universities embracing entrepreneurial activities and EE (Barnard and Van der Merwe, 2016; Beynon et al., 2014).

The developing entrepreneurial culture in UK universities

The global pressures, that impact on UK Universities, have led some forward thinking HEIs to respond with entrepreneurial approaches to providing sustainability and institutional continuity. Likewise, the UK Government, education regulatory and academic professional bodies have responded by preparing guidance, regulation and support documentation on how to adopt strategies to become more entrepreneurial in an educational setting, (OECD, 2012; QAA, 2018). New strategies for innovative, sustainable entrepreneurial practices include engaging more with the business community, setting-up centres for entrepreneurship, launching new courses, providing professional out of hours course options, developing blended and distance learning programmes and providing work placement or internship programmes for students (see Madichie, 2014; Barnard and Van der Merwe, 2016; Grudzinskii, 2005). Likewise, the challenging and more demanding mindset of potential student populations developing from societal changes have been argued by many to already have influenced university strategy (Helgesen and Nesset, 2007; Heinonen and Poikkijoki, 2006). Accordingly, research by Gbadamosi (2015) concurs that “Nevertheless, the extent to which Universities embrace entrepreneurship is yet to be fully appreciated in the literature”. It is therefore appropriate that this research paper examines the opinions of institutional culture across HE practitioners working in UK university settings.

Examining higher educational institutional culture

The difficulty in understanding university culture has been discussed for many years, in earlier years with discourse on the initiation and fulfilment of organisational sagas in three highly distinctive and regarded colleges (Clark, 1972) and more recently with, Paradeise and Thoenig (2013) recognising the challenges of maintaining regulatory compliance and procedural control while pursuing innovation and market share with a culture based on risk. Paradeise and Thoenig (2013) show concern that: “Bureaucratization is underpinned by an increased centralization of power and legitimized by an authoritarian culture that permeates the academic ethos”. Likewise, the perils of developing an EC in universities in response to external factors are discussed further by Clark (1998) where through a review of five European case studies identifies five nurturing elements. These are: strengthening the steering core; expanding the development of periphery; generating a diversified funding base; stimulating the academic heartland; and developing an integrated EC. Grudzinskii (2005) analysing the changing educational landscape in Russian higher education presents what is meant by an entrepreneurial organisation as it applies to a university:

  1. based on directing innovation and is able to function under conditions of risk and dynamic demand;

  2. economically effective organisation that is engaged in profitable activity and supported primarily on its own capabilities;

  3. a liberal organisation with a flexible network – giving capability to respond to demand;

  4. an organisation in which the key factors are human beings, groups and their competence, where people’s work is based on a balance of benefit and risk;

  5. support personnel to drive the organisation’s strategy, for which purpose the management delegates rights and responsibility to the performers of the tasks to the maximum extent; and

  6. an organisation that focuses on the consumer and makes it possible to react to any change in the consumer’s needs in a timely and flexible manner.

The discussion on culture within universities is not too dissimilar to perspectives on organisational culture presented by Quinn’s (1988) organisational culture model which predicated four culture types of culture; adhocracy, clan, hierarchy and market. Four sets of attributes of organisational culture types are presented in Table I (based on Luu, 2012).

Many researchers such as Luu (2012) have argued that these four culture types will affect knowledge management practices within organisations particularly knowledge sharing (Michailova and Minbaeva, 2012), and knowledge exchange (Boden et al., 2012). Hence, the research interest in identifying perceptions of OC within higher education is discussed by Elezi and Bamber (2018) and consequently presented in this research study. Table II further consolidates Luu’s (2012) attributes of OC into choice categories for survey respondents to identify the best fit to what they consider is their universities’ dominant OC. The Quinn’s framework shows that the adhocracy culture best supports entrepreneurialism as it includes the attributes of innovation, flexibility, strategic change and hence is more of a risk taking culture than the other three cultures presented by Quinn.

Two questions are posed at this stage of the research paper to ask, HEI readers:


Is there a role for teaching entrepreneurship?

And if your university culture is not reporting to be close to the Quinn’s description of adhocracy culture, then:


What is your university’s culture?

In exploring the concepts of entrepreneurship, Pelly and Duncan (2016) have shown a link between adhocracies and culture, thus demonstrated through their example of altering a shared vision and overcoming organisational barriers the ability for institutes to enact performance change. Similarly, the link between academic institutes’ effectiveness and cultures has been substantiated in several studies. For example, Cameron and Ettington (1988) and Cameron and Freeman (1991) found that four-year colleges with a dominant clan culture have higher levels of performance on internal morale performance criteria, those with a dominant adhocracy culture are more effective in promoting academic development, and those with a dominant market culture are more successful in their interactions with the external environment. These findings, albeit interesting, (from Cameron and Ettington, 1988; Cameron and Freeman, 1991) for this research paper are discussed in a more modern context of HEIs later in the conclusions to this paper.

In adhocracies, the prevalent leadership style according to academic institute research by Smart et al. (1997) is that of an entrepreneur or innovator. They suggest the bonding among organisational members is based on innovation and development, and strategic emphases focus on growth and the acquisition of additional resources. The educational authors, Smart et al. (1997) continue to conclude that educational institutions that exhibit an adhocracy culture are regarded as being very dynamic and entrepreneurial places in which people are willing to stick their necks out and take risks. Thus, previous research supports both the assessment of HEI culture and also the link between adhocracy culture and academic development.

The results of an empirical research study by Köse and Korkmaz (2019) concerning the relationship between organisational culture and academic performance show that the two most significant culture types impacting academic performance are competitive culture and innovative team culture and that hierarchical culture has no significant relationship with academic performance. This would indicate that hierarchical culture would be the least preferred of cultures represented by Luu (2012 and Quinn (1988) as shown in Table I, because there are similarities between the Köse and Korkmaz (2019) competitive culture and adhocracy culture while the Köse and Korkmaz (2019) competitive innovative team culture has similar attributes to clan culture.

Teaching entrepreneurship in higher education

The argument continues as to whether entrepreneurship can be taught or even whether entrepreneurs are born entrepreneurs or whether they learn their craft. Some promoters of entrepreneurship education such as Henry et al. (2005) have presented evidence that there is indeed value for society in teaching entrepreneurship yet the debate still continues regarding acting entrepreneurially within the context of HE (Klofsten, 2000; Beynon et al., 2014). In support of teaching entrepreneurial skills Gürol and Atsan (2006), not too surprisingly, recognise entrepreneurial traits to be higher in entrepreneurially inclined students when compared to their entrepreneurially non-inclined students’ counterpart. They have higher risk-taking propensity, internal locus of control, higher innovativeness and higher needs for achievements (Elenurm, 2012; Jones and Iredale, 2010, 2014; Short et al., 2010). Meanwhile, many academics and scholars support innovation and entrepreneurial studies as a means to improving a nations prosperity (Hynes, 1996; Hytti and O’Gorman, 2004; Rae, 2007; Draycott and Rae, 2011; Beynon et al., 2014). Hence, there appears to be compelling reasons to teach entrepreneurialism in universities but, whether there is the organisational competence, never mind whether there is a need for entrepreneurial experienced staff to do this, remains to be seen in. This research has, therefore, assessed HEI staff opinions of their OC.

Entrepreneurship culture in higher education institutes

Discussing the role of EC in universities research output has reported that resources and capacities, as well as institutional, financial, commercial and human capital differences explained why some universities have more success with spin-off ventures (O’Shea et al., 2005). Likewise, some authors have described the importance of EC within HEIs; particularly, Etzkowitz et al. (2000) coined the term entrepreneurial university to describe a university that engages in regional economic development through company and job creation. Similarly, Wood (2011) explains that in academic settings an EC drives alternative funding streams and increases reputational status. Thus, research an HEIs EC is a worthy endeavour and consequently this research aimed to elicit from university respondents their opinions on their own university’s cultural type.

Osiri et al. (2013) also discuss that precursors of EC at an academic institution include internal forces, such as university leadership and faculty willingness to try something new (or faculty orientation), as well as external forces such as government inducements and industry solicitations. Those authors conclude that such forces influence the behaviour and actions of the members of the institution to such an extent that values and beliefs can be modified thus adapting and changing processes towards providing an EC.

More recently, empirical research by Pudjiarti (2018) imply that higher education institutions should have a supportive climate to foster an EC. Further Pudjiarti (2018) suggest organisation members are more likely to improve their efforts to learn and develop potential skills on an on-going basis, expand and enrich the culture of the work environment and develop resource strategies if policies and leadership are aligned to encourage EC.

The theoretical foundations outlaid by Osiri et al. (2013) identified indicators of EC in HEIs which can enable scholars and institutional policy makers to critically consider if their institution is hindering development or if changes to policy or the institutional culture as a whole could further stimulate positive change. Osiri et al. (2013) conclude their research by suggesting that further empirical analysis is required to understand the nature and extent to which HEIs adopt an EC or not, hence, this research proposes a methodology that empirically analysis OC at UK universities. Furthermore, this paper discusses culture when analysing the findings of this research in the conclusion section.

Research methodology

A survey method was used (originally for the purposes of a PhD study focusing on knowledge management, Elezi, 2020; see conceptual model published in Elezi, 2017) as the general methodology for gathering, describing, and explaining information from participants currently working in HEIs in the UK. A survey method was adopted as this has been one of the most common methods of collecting data in social research settings (Slattery et al., 2011). The sample(s) selected aimed to construct a quantitative description from two discrete HE populations. Those two populations can be described as first; a general population (n = 101) of samples taken from a number of UK HEIs and second a population (n = 104) of samples from a single local HEI (University) where all respondents (n=2015) had recently participated in HE partnerships. The survey method was used as it was seen as an effective means to gain data related to respondents’ opinions of their universities’ institutional culture.

This type of survey research has been described by Slattery et al. (2011) as one of the three techniques for collection of primary data; the other two being direct measurement and observation. Direct measurement and observation has not been used to collect survey data, however, it is acknowledged by the researchers, that inevitably the survey instrument developed from an understanding of HEI Knowledge Management factors, presented by Elezi and Bamber (2018), have been influenced by those methods. Furthermore, as this paper focuses entirely on the OC of higher education, only part of the full survey has been under investigation. Therefore, the authors have focussed on the specific question related to OC, rather than the full set of questions relating to the larger topic of the full survey, which is knowledge management, and thus provided analysis accordingly.

The hard copy responses (104 responses) are from a university local to the researchers while the online responses represent a wide number of universities (97 responses from 34 different UK universities not including anyone from the local university) and a few responses from one Further Education (FE) College delivering higher education programmes (4 responses only). Survey was sent to HE practitioners and HE managers which included academics, programme managers, head of academic curricula, heads of schools, partnership development offices and head of corporate partnerships or business development teams to mention a few.

Questionnaire design and survey validity

The original doctoral survey questionnaire had been developed by Elezi (2017) from a conceptual model, to elicit opinions from HEI employee populations that had experience of working in the context of UK, HE partnerships. Accordingly, as the work environment within HE is a social setting, the survey method has been considered as one of the most common methods for collecting data (Slattery et al., 2011). That original questionnaire was designed through a process of iterations that involved expert opinion and practitioner input, thus improving and maintaining internal validity in the survey instrument, as suggested by Slattery et al. (2011). Nevertheless, within this research study, as it focuses entirely on culture within HE (Universities), only part of the original survey is used, namely, the single question devoted explicitly and directly to assessing culture, see Table II for the survey question. The respondents were asked to choose to the best of their knowledge, which one of the four identified and described OCs best defines their institution.

Administering the questionnaire ethically and reducing respondent bias

The two populations surveyed were chosen from the network of contacts of the researchers and from their current working environments; hence, this provides a non-random sampling based on accessibility and convenience of the samples. This led to two methods of data collection being used, in that the instrument was administered in two different ways, that is to the general population, albeit mainly through one of the authors LinkedIn social media account using an internet survey method (survey monkey) and second to the local population (a single North West, UK University) using a paper based questionnaire, although the instruments contained identical questions and an identical layout and configuration of questions. These invitations to respond to a survey available on the survey monkey web-site, for example, is an example of taking a self-selected sample (as in Charrière and Neumann, 2010), similarly presenting the survey to colleagues in a university is a self-selected sample too and the potential bias associated with this type of sampling has been reduced by all participants in the survey being guaranteed anonymity of responses. This anonymity of responses also provides a foundation for ethical research as Robson and McCartan (2016) suggested “Participants in social science research have a right to expect that information they provide will be treated confidentially and, if published, will not be identifiable as theirs”.

Survey responses

As a result of 304 e-mails sent through the LinkedIn account and email address book of one of the researchers and author of this paper, a total of 101 completed and useful questionnaire responses have been received via “survey monkey” software. This general national population provided a response rate of 33.23 per cent. As a result of the local sample of 121 approached employees, through hard copy completions of the questionnaire, a total of 104 completed and useful questionnaire responses have been received. This local population provided a better response rate of 85.95 per cent. An initial review of the responses from both these national and local surveys, in the main, indicated no measurable differences in the respondents’ answers to the questions. As well as analysing the two groups separately, the two groups therefore were combined, for the analysis of the survey. This combination provides a total of 205 useful responses to the questionnaire survey, see Table III.

The respondents were all currently employed within the UK higher education sector and all said they had experience working within an educational partnership. The general population sample is taken from higher education staff operating in UK wide universities (n=65) and colleges delivering HE provision (n=5) while the local population sample is employed by one university in the North West of the UK.

Discussion of data collected and findings

The responses to the survey question related to higher education institutional culture are shown in Table IV which gives a total of 205 respondents from 104 hard copy surveys and 101 online surveys. From these 205 respondents, there were no spoilt or illegible choices and respondents therefore were able to clearly and specifically select a culture that they thought best fit their institutions’ own OC.

From these results, it can be seen that there is a reported difference between the hard copy population and the online population. This difference is better shown in graphical form in the bar charts in Figure 1. Market culture is chosen by most respondents in the hard copy population (n = 48, 46 per cent) while for the online population a hierarchy culture is the most popular choice (n = 40, 40 per cent). The second most chosen culture for the hard copy population was clan while second most chosen for the online population was market.

For the hard copy population the least chosen culture was hierarchy (n=9, 9 per cent) while for the online population the least chosen was adhocracy (n=5, 5 per cent). This means that overall the least chosen culture across both sample populations when combined is the adhocracy culture (total n=22, 11 per cent) while overall the most often chosen is the market culture (total n=81, 40 per cent).

The pie charts shown in Figure 2 indicate that the way these two sample groups responded is quite different. The local university respondents, shown on the right hand side of the Figure 2, have categorically indicated first that market and, second that clan, are the two dominant cultures present. Contrary to this, the widespread group of university respondents, shown in the middle of Figure 2, have indicated that first hierarchic and second market cultures are dominant in their institutions.

Whether the widespread group of university respondents is a general heterogeneous representation of all UK universities is debatable as responses from only 34 universities have been obtained compared to over 120 universities present in the UK. The survey results, however, do have the opinions from more than a quarter of all UK universities. Nevertheless, the researchers believe the results from the general population could be used as a benchmark for assessing whether a particular university’s respondents would provide the same profile of answers.

As Cameron and Ettington (1988) and Cameron and Freeman (1991) in their research found that four-year colleges with a dominant market culture are more successful in their interactions with the external environment this is relevant to the local university and the heterogeneous group of universities. The local university, according to respondents has a market culture and therefore are more likely to be responsive to their external environment. This is in contrast to the responses from the heterogeneous population of universities, in that hierarchy is their dominant culture, nevertheless, closely followed by market culture. This indicates that UK universities do exhibit stability and constancy of purpose but members are cognisant of the external environment. The combined survey populations provides market culture as the dominant cultural type, which as previous research indicates is a culture most likely to be responsive to the external environment. The authors believe that because of recent UK governmental and regulatory changes, falling student populations, the globalisation of higher education and political uncertainty, UK universities are looking outward and scanning the environment in preparation and in response to these external pressures.

The most remarkable difference, seen in Figure 2, between the two population samples, considered by the authors, is the positioning of the hierarchy culture type. For the local university, the respondents predominantly believe that they are not a hierarchy culture while this is in contrast with the heterogeneous population in that the hierarchy culture is dominant according to responses from the survey. The relevance here is that Köse and Korkmaz (2019) from their research indicate serious consideration is needed as they indicated from empirical research that a relatively low academic performance was seen in universities where a hierarchical culture is predominant.

Critical discussion of findings and conclusions

Even though entrepreneurship has proved difficult to define and therefore caused debate on how to teach entrepreneurialism there has been, for a while at least, an accepted set of attributes associated with an organisation’s EC. This paper adds to the understanding of entrepreneurial OC in universities through a review of literature and a survey of 205 higher education practitioners.

The results of this study show a split decision in the choice of respondent’s universities’ best fit cultural type, which potentially has far reaching implications for university governance and leadership. This is in particular more important for the hard copy survey as these results are from a single university, where just short of half of the respondents chose that they were working in a market cultural type institution, but nevertheless, a third chose clan cultural type and the rest of respondents had split opinions of their organisation’s culture between adhocracy and hierarchy cultures. This demonstrates that from this single university those staffs perception of their working environment differs with most other universities thinking they are operating in either a clan culture or a market culture. Consequently, these results might surprise the universities leadership if they think they are promoting entrepreneurial and innovative activities but on the other hand they may be surprised that their staff consider that they belong mainly to a family –like institution which aims to lead the market. Nevertheless, the comparison from a single university to a more heterogenic population shows significant difference in opinion of their organisations’ culture.

Importantly, for university leadership the results of the survey indicate quite strongly that university respondents believe their organisations are not operating in an adhocracy culture and hence the implication being universities are not entrepreneurial. Nevertheless, a market culture is indicated by most respondents as the culture which best fits and therefore indicates UK universities are results oriented with a focus on market competition and market forces. The implication of this is that the drive by stakeholders for universities to become more entrepreneurial does not appear to be working while being results oriented is accepted as common. In the current higher education setting there has been an arguable need, in the UK at least, for universities to move towards becoming more entrepreneurial and this is supported, with guiding and encouraging frameworks from stakeholder organisations promoting diversification and innovation. Hence, the literature suggested many universities are practicing and reporting greater entrepreneurial and innovative practices to help sustain institutional value creation. Likewise, value creation was seen in EE literature as it reportedly supports a nation’s competitiveness and contributes to reducing unemployment. The fact that respondents believe their organisations are not entrepreneurial indicates stakeholder policies are not being adopted and current literature has been misleading.

In comparing the hard copy results to the online results the largest difference in choice of cultural type is that of hierarchical culture. The hard copy, that being respondents from a single university, have reported predominantly they are not hierarchical while, the online participants from across many universities in the main report they are hierarchical. This should be of significant interest to the single university leadership as it indicates that their staff, in the main, do not feel restrained or controlled by restricting procedures and policies. On the other hand, if that university is not performing well the leadership may want to impose procedural control to provide direction. The online population, a spread of different UK university respondents, have said predominantly they work in a structured and controlled stable environment, maybe indicating that most UK university staff considers themselves in a comfortable role. The significant difference in choosing hierarchical culture as the organisation’s best fit should be of concern to UK educational policy makers and UK university governors as this strongly suggests that many university staff believe that they are in a controlling environment, which suggests is stifling innovation and entrepreneurialism of universities. That observation is contrary to what many stakeholders have suggested universities should be doing under the present global education environment.

Implications and recommendations for higher education policy, practice and research

The research presented in this paper, not only, provides opinions regarding OC from UK higher education respondents, but also recognises implications for researchers, policy makers and HE practitioners. The opinions elicited through the survey question have shown that perception of universities’ OC differs. For instance, the authors believe that the literature reviewed suggest that guidance frameworks implemented and controlled by UK HEI regulatory frameworks (see OECD, 2012, QAA, 2018; British Council and Oxford Economics, 2012) and HEI governing bodies for improving the innovation and entrepreneurialism of UK universities are not widely applied. The survey had two populations, a population of respondents from single university and a population of respondents from a number of universities representing a more heterogenic population both indicate that UK universities do not predominantly have adhocracy cultures, thus are not entrepreneurial in nature.

The study findings suggest that the single university responses are different to the heterogeneous group of university respondents, with particular reference to the concept of a hierarchical culture. That is, the implication being that the culture of that single organisation does not fit the common signature of culture which in the main is reported as hierarchical. Nevertheless, this study does not conclude this is either a problem or an opportunity but suggests it should be of significant interest for the single university to carry out further investigation and possibly map their intended cultural intent to what has been reported in this research.

Furthermore, the study results advance understanding of culture within the UK HE environment but also show that there is a need for all HE practitioners to understand that the perception of culture does vary amongst HE staff. This paper highlights that although there are many innovative and entrepreneurial activities reported in literature as being present in the UK HE sector there is a shortage of opinion that UK universities harbour the adhocracy culture which promotes entrepreneurialism. Clearly, further research needs to be conducted to establish whether the findings presented by this study do truly contradict evidence presented in the literature. The consequence of such findings could lead to readers suggesting that UK universities, as they do not have an EC, should not provide EE. This is clearly a statement that requires much more debate and is the domain of further research into the efficacy of EE and requires careful ethical consideration by UK education policy makers.

Limitations of the research and recommendations for further research

This research study has looked higher education culture in the UK. While the sample provides responses from two discrete UK populations of HE partnership practitioners, the findings have merit for policy makers and governance in the UK HE sector as presented in the implications and recommendations above. Nevertheless, the survey elicited opinions from 205 HE practitioner respondents, a relatively small sample in terms of the numbers of academic and non-academic staff employed in the UK HE sector which is estimated at approximately 410,130 employees in 2016 by HESA (2017).

The main analysis, a survey questionnaire, resulted in HE practitioners self-reporting on their institutions cultural type. While there was clear conceptual reasons for using a survey to elicit responses it is acknowledged that such self-reporting can be prone to biases (e.g. overestimating their own experience; not putting their peers in a bad light or vice-versa; praising their institutions because of pride or fear of recrimination; responding without a clear understanding of KM in their wider institutional context). Thus, future research might further open up the understanding of HEI culture with observational studies, longitudinal studies or more appropriately ethnographical studies were researchers with a deep understanding of EC can be directly immersed in activities.

Future research could make use of the measurement instrument used in this study and repeat the methods used to identify such differences if they exist. However, other researchers must be cautioned that the methodology used in this research paper is not without its flaws, but there is recognition that an opportunity exists to further assess the generalisability of the findings across institutes, cultures and different countries. Whether Universities are fit to teach Entrepreneurialism, must still be debated, researched and further understood, because literature has shown that there is a need to encourage innovation, organisational sustainability and entrepreneurial practices, for the benefit of nations’ growth while the findings in this research show that universities are more likely to be market focussed rather than entrepreneurially competent.


Bar chart graph of responses collected (define your clan culture)

Figure 1

Bar chart graph of responses collected (define your clan culture)

Pie chart of responses collected (define your culture)

Figure 2

Pie chart of responses collected (define your culture)

Attributes of organisational culture types

Cultural type as Quinn’s (1988) model
Attributes based on Luu (2012) Adhocracy Clan Hierarchy Market
Dominant attributes Adaptability, creativity and innovation, entrepreneurship Cohesiveness, affiliativeness, sense of family Regulations, order, alignment, uniformity Market knowledge sharing, competitiveness
Dominant leadership Change agent, innovator, opportunity creator, entrepreneur, strategist Mentor, facilitator Monitor, coordinator, administrator Reactive, achievement-oriented
Bonding Flexibility, vision, orientation, thick consent Interpersonal cohesion, teamwork, belonging, loyalty Rules, policies, procedures and calculation Customer – centredness competition
Strategic emphasis Towards innovation, value creation, sustainability Towards human resources development, commitment Towards stability, predictability, smooth operations Towards competitive advantage and market superiority

Source: Adapted from Luu (2012)

HE staff respondent choices of clan culture

Organisational culture Brief description of culture
Clan culture Is of a family-like nature, with a focus on mentoring, nurturing and “doing things together…
Adhocracy culture Is of a dynamic and entrepreneurial nature, with a focus on risk-taking, innovation and “doing things first”
Market culture Very result oriented, with a focus on competition, achievement and “getting the job done”
Hierarchy culture It is structured and controlled with a focus on efficiency, stability and “doing things right”

Survey response rates

(i) General population using “survey monkey” (ii) Local population using “hard copy”
E-mail requests sent Positive usable responses Response rate (%) Local staff approached Positive usable responses Response rate (%)
304 101 33.23 121 104 85.95

Responses to “define your clan culture”

Alternatives provided to respondents Hard copies Hard copy percentage Online Online percentage Total number Total percentage
Clan culture 30 28.85 23 22.77 53 25.85
Adhocracy culture 17 16.35 5 4.95 22 10.73
Market culture 48 46.15 33 32.67 81 39.51
Hierarchy culture 9 8.65 40 39.60 49 23.9
Total number/percentage 104 100 101 100 205 100


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Further reading

Etzkowitz, H. (2003), “Research groups as ‘quasi-firms’: the invention of the entrepreneurial university”, Research Policy, Vol. 32 No. 1, pp. 109-121.

Madichie, N. (2017), “Highlife music in West Africa: down memory lane”, Management Research Review, Vol. 40 No. 1, pp. 116-119.

May, T. (2011), Social Research Issues, Methods and Process, Open University Press.

Corresponding author

Enis Elezi can be contacted at: ee3mpo@bolton.ac.uk

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