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Problematising philosophical assumptions in EE's Invisible College

Catherine Brentnall (Sheffield Business School, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK)
David Higgins (University of Liverpool Management School, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 16 March 2022

Issue publication date: 10 May 2022




This paper seeks to energise discussion around philosophical assumptions in entrepreneurship education (EE). Far from being abstract considerations, this paper underscores that philosophical assumptions – which are embodied in research products and inherited from others – have practical implications.


The study’s approach is to purposefully unsettle taken-for-granted assumptions implicit within 44 influential articles which have been said to reveal EE's Invisible College. The authors utilise three heuristic tools offered by problematisation – identifying paradigmatic assumptions, (re)conceptualising subject matter and making a reversal – to explore the implications of the meta-theoretical underpinnings of this body of work. The goal of this paper is not to find a definitive answer to the question “what is EE's underlying philosophy?” but rather ask, “what can we learn about philosophical assumptions by reconsidering this particular set of influential articles at a deep level?”


With some notable expectations, EE's Invisible College is a place where ideas about an external social reality accessible to the dispassionate researcher are implicitly accepted, where assumptions about the possibility of objective knowledge and the superiority of scientific methodology dominate and where functionalist research products reproduce the social status quo. Thus, whilst the EE research studied might appear diverse at a surface level (topics, research design, inter-disciplinary perspective), diversity is less apparent when considering the deeper, philosophical assumptions which underpin this body of work.


Revealing assumptions which are embodied within research products may prompt critical thinking about the practical implications of research philosophies in the field of EE. In considering the implications of philosophical assumptions, a connection is made between problems that are observed at surface level – from lack of legitimacy, criticality and taken for grantedness of the field – to the deeper hidden system of ideas which lies beneath. Having highlighted potential problems of these deeper assumptions, the paper concludes by posing questions in relation to the type of research that is pursued and legitimised in the field of EE, the socialisation of researchers and the implications for criticality in the field. Such issues illustrate that, far from philosophical assumptions being an abstract or unimportant concern, they are highly practical and have the power to constrain or empower action and the social impact of research.



The author (Catherine Brentnall) is supported by a scholarship from Sheffield Business School, part of Sheffield Hallam University.


Brentnall, C. and Higgins, D. (2022), "Problematising philosophical assumptions in EE's Invisible College", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 28 No. 4, pp. 878-909.



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