Universities failing industry, business body claims

Isme says entrepreneurship must become central element of third-level training

DCU president Brian MacCraith: said entrepreneurship is becoming a part of all degree programmes at the university. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

DCU president Brian MacCraith: said entrepreneurship is becoming a part of all degree programmes at the university. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh


Irish universities have rejected claims by a business lobby that third-level education here was delivering graduates ill-prepared to enter business.

The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Isme) yesterday said the universities were “failing industry” and called on the third-level sector to stop paying “lip-service” to entrepreneurship education. It should be part of their “core identity”.

It criticised the universities for their large classes, poor teaching methods, dry academic content and a lack of relevance for real business life. “The result is a graduate unfit for work, ill-prepared for business life and error prone,” it said.

Dublin City University president Prof Brian Mac Craith dismissed the claims yesterday saying entrepreneurship training was spreading through all faculties at graduate and post-graduate level.

The university had launched UStart in January, a programme that offered undergraduates an accelerated scheme to help them set-up and launch business ideas. This had the financial support of the J P Morgan Chase Foundation, Prof MacCraith said. Eight student teams were already working on the programme.

Last March the university became the first in Ireland to be designated an Ashoka Changemaker Campus, joining a network of colleges and universities supporting the field of social entrepreneurship in education, he said. The university now styled itself the “university of enterprise”.

The DCU Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurship provided direct training but entrepreneurship was becoming a part of all degree programmes at the university, Prof MacCraith added.

University College Dublin also rejected Isme’s contention, saying that entrepreneurship was already a core part of education at the university. This type of training first became part of the postgraduate programme but had gradually been pulled back into the graduate and undergraduate curriculum, a UCD spokeswoman said. It was automatically provided as part of its business courses but also in science programmes at UCD, the idea being to help science students recognise the potential for the commercialisation of discoveries and the possibility of forming a business based on them.

Nova UCD, the university’s technology transfer centre, provided a range of courses and training in entrepreneurship, and UCD had joined with Trinity College Dublin to form the Innovation Alliance. This type of training was spreading across all faculties and into undergraduate programmes, the spokeswoman said.

Graduates reaching the jobs market were ill prepared, however, according to Isme chief executive Mark Fielding. “The number of complaints we get from members about the abilities of the young people coming out who just don’t have it,” he said, they were not “job ready. A little more interaction with industry would help”.

He recommended there should be more structured training, mentoring and on the job experience.