AbstractThe subject matter of this thesis is entrepreneurship and specifically how people learn how to become entrepreneurs. This is explored within the specific context of graduate entrepreneurs and therefore this phenomenological research, focuses specifically upon the subjective learning experiences of fifteen graduate entrepreneurs in South Wales. The investigation shows that, since the inception of research into the field of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship, academics can neither agree on a definition of the term 'entrepreneur' nor the notion of 'enterprise'. There is a tacit understanding that "entrepreneurs" are not a homogenous group; the term must be given a clear meaning in relation to any particular study and that the concept is dynamic, whereby changes over time may not be linear.
This thesis contends that, whilst Universities privilege the development of specific knowledge and skills development for business management and that some enterprise/entrepreneur education programmes give consideration to understanding the entrepreneur, entrepreneurial activity, opportunity evaluation and exploitation; less consideration is given to the development of the entrepreneur as a transformed being, journeying from roles of student to entrepreneur, through the process of being a potential entrepreneur and then becoming a practising entrepreneur.
Following a constructivist philosophy, this thesis provides an examination of how a niche group of graduates learned how to become entrepreneurs. The graduate entrepreneurs form a research group for this thesis; they are graduates from a range of subject disciplines; furthermore they are recipients of a Welsh Government funding scheme, known as the Knowledge Exploitation Fund (KEF) and started a business within three years of graduating. Using a case study approach, the thesis investigates the graduate entrepreneurs learning experiences (personal, educational and business) as they transform from a student to a graduate to an 'entrepreneur'; it also evaluates and presents new meaning of the learning processes required to become an entrepreneur, foreseeing that the social construction of learning within the graduate entrepreneurs' social worlds as crucial to understanding the processes of becoming an entrepreneur.
One of the main outcomes of the research was the graduate entrepreneurs‘ disassociation with the term "entrepreneur". Therefore, this thesis discusses the need to understand the learning processes required to become an entrepreneur, as well as the implications of evaluating enterprise education foremost within the context of understanding "the entrepreneur" as a label and an identity. This investigates the locus of the self-identity of graduate‘s experience of forms of enterprise education; the labelling of such people by the teachers and institutions where enterprise education takes place and the implications of differences to the evaluation of enterprise education are examined.
The thesis argues that the practice, delivery and evaluative studies of enterprise education need to develop beyond the economist view whereby business start-up and business growth are key factors; and educationally beyond institutional requirements of pass rates and grades. Through the socio-psychological lens of identity, this research promotes the notion that evaluations of enterprise education need to expand and should encompass prime pedagogical objectives that education enables people to grow and develop, to shape their own new identities in the light of their learning experiences.
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