Erasmus+ capacity building projects are designed to modernise, internationalise and increase access to higher education, as well as to address the challenges faced by the higher education systems in countries outside of Europe.
Our three-year-long ENCORE project is focusing on Laos, Nepal and Bhutan. Our main aim is to promote entrepreneurship education and training at six universities in a region where the understanding of entrepreneurship is rather different from the European way of thinking. The project is coordinated by Fachhochschule Joanneum in Austria. The other European partners are University of Alicante and Haaga-Helia UAS.
The state of entrepreneurship education in our target countries
The first phase of our project comprised a status quo analysis of the current situation of entrepreneurship in the target countries. We conducted focus group interviews with stakeholders in all partner countries. The findings confirm that the ecosystem for entrepreneurship is rather regulated in all the countries and the public support for potential entrepreneurs limited.
Our study shows that entrepreneurship is rarely the ideal career path for university graduates. They prefer white collar jobs in the public sector or in bigger companies and organisations. Moreover, the Asian tendency for risk avoidance and the low tolerance of uncertainty further limit the interest to start and run a business.
There is also a lack of human capital when it comes to entrepreneurship and running a business in all the target countries. In the focus group discussions, it became clear that higher education institutions, like universities, should improve the entrepreneurship education and training provided for their students.
The next steps of the Encore project
The status quo analysis set the frame for the following stage of the project. In October 2021 we will start the training of academic staff. The original plan was to have all trainings in the target countries, but due to COVID-19, at least the first training will take place online.
During the trainings the participants will get to know good practices from Europe as well as start figuring out how entrepreneurship training could be offered to their own students, considering the unique cultures and societies. The project offers the Asian partner universities funding for purchasing new technology for implementing the entrepreneurship trainings.
In the project, all universities in the target countries will establish a hub for entrepreneurship trainings. This hub will provide trainings both for students and external stakeholders such as small business owners and the public sector. To make the hub successful and running without EU funding after the project is over, there is a need for proper business plans and support. We at Haaga-Helia have the main responsibility for this part of the project.
When the trainings of academic staff are over, the students from universities in the target countries will participate in a business idea competition. More on that later!