Breathing Space or Hiding Place? Graduate Entrepreneurs’ Perspectives of Entrepreneurship Education in Ireland

Mary Fenton

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Entrepreneurship education (EE) has become a panacea for graduate unemployment despite a lacuna of empirical evidence to demonstrate that it can generate more entrepreneurial activity (Matlay, 2007; Potter, 2008). This research examines graduate entrepreneurs’ perspectives of EE at third level in their formation as entrepreneurs. The South East Enterprise Platform Programme (SEEPP) provides an interesting case study of graduate entrepreneurship within South East region of Ireland, where research was conducted amongst 30 graduate entrepreneurs i.e., 15 SEEPP participants and 15 non-SEEPP entrepreneurs. This research also included the perspectives of 15 enterprise enablers, namely SEEPP lecturers and enterprise development agency (EDA) personnel to provide a triangulated perspective of EE at third level. The graduate entrepreneurs and enterprise enablers acknowledged initiatives by HEIs to promote entrepreneurship but they believed that EE does not adequately prepare students for self-employment mainly because: (i) HEIs are focused on preparing students for employment; (ii) lecturers lack critical enterprise experience; (iii) the academic nature of EE; and (iv) EE’s ‘one size fits all’ approach fails to recognise the heterogeneity of learners’ needs. The notion that more EE will lead to greater numbers of graduate entrepreneurs is unrealistic because graduates’ route to self- employment is not linear, moreover, there is a paucity of supports for ‘raw graduates’ in their transition to self-employment. Whilst some EDA personnel regarded EE at third level as a ‘hiding place’, many graduate entrepreneurs believed that HEIs provided a ‘breathing space’ to develop their business. This research offers a nuanced understanding of EE at third level and the prevailing economic conditions for graduate entrepreneurship in Ireland. It contributes to the advancement of knowledge, practice and policy by proposing a conceptual framework for EE at third level to meet the diverse needs of graduate entrepreneurs. It concludes with the identification of areas worthy of further research.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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