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The university as an entrepreneurial learning space: The role of socialized learning in developing entrepreneurial competence

Karen Williams Middleton (Division of Entrepreneurship and Strategy, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden)
Antonio Padilla-Meléndez (Department of Economics and Business Administration, Universidad de Málaga, Malaga, Spain)
Nigel Lockett (Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)
Carla Quesada-Pallarès (Department of Applied Pedagogy, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain)
Sarah Jack (Jacob and Marcus Wallenberg Center for Innovative and Sustainable Business Development, House of Innovation, Stockholm School of Economics, Stockholm, Sweden) (Department of Entrepreneurship and Strategy, Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster, UK)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 25 September 2019

Issue publication date: 3 August 2020




The purpose of this paper is to explores the influence of socialization upon the constitution and integration of learning leading to the development of entrepreneurial competence while at university, from the learner perspective. Self-reported learning is analyzed to illustrate ways in which students make use of institutional and social contributions of the university context.


The study investigates entrepreneurial journeys of 18 participants, either currently attending or recently graduated from three universities in three countries with both comparable and distinctive contextual elements. In depth analysis of individual life stories, focusing on self-identified critical incidents, is used to illustrate ways in which students, while at university, develop entrepreneurial competence for current and future practice.


Formal and non-formal learning remain important foundations for entrepreneurial competence development, delivered through designed content-centric structures. Informal learning – particularly mentor supported socialised learning – centring around the learner is key to solidifying learning towards entrepreneurial competence, through know-how and access to resources. The university emerges as an entrepreneurial learning space where students constitute and integrate learning gained through different forms.

Research limitations/implications

Cross-cultural analysis is limited as the paper emphasizes the individual’s learning experience relative to the immediate university context.

Practical implications

Universities play a critical role as entrepreneurial learning spaces beyond formal and non-formal learning. This includes dedicating resources to orchestrate informal learning opportunities and enabling interaction with the different agents that contribute to socialised situated learning, supporting entrepreneurial competence development. Universities need to take responsibility for facilitating the entirety of learning.


Socialised learning in combination with other forms of learning contributes to student development of entrepreneurial competence while situated in the university context.



This paper forms part of a special section Filling in the Blanks: ‘Black Boxes’ in Enterprise/Entrepreneurship Education guest edited by Helle Neergaard, William B. Gartner, Ulla Hytti, Diamanto Politis and David Rae.


Williams Middleton, K., Padilla-Meléndez, A., Lockett, N., Quesada-Pallarès, C. and Jack, S. (2020), "The university as an entrepreneurial learning space: The role of socialized learning in developing entrepreneurial competence", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 26 No. 5, pp. 887-909.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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