I’m not saying this is the only problem. And, by the way, I’m in favor of entrepreneurship education, when it’s done well. I think it helps … but that’s another post.
It’s a simple story. It’s a real problem with business education concerning entrepreneurship in top institutions. It happens way too often. Not that it’s the only problem with entrepreneurship education, but it’s harder to spot.
Take an imaginary person named Leslie who’s interested in entrepreneurship and wants to study it and then teach it, as a career. Here’s what happens.
First, she enrolls in a good graduate school intending to get a doctorate degree. In business grad schools, the MBAs study for two years to get jobs in business, not to teach business. Yet it takes a doctorate to teach business in a good school, as a career. Yes, there are exceptions to that rule, but Leslie is focused and motivated so she wants the best path to the best career opportunities, which means she needs the PhD degree. That’s a matter of academic records, standardized testing, essays, and recommendations, pretty much the same process people go through to get into college or university.
As she gets used to her studies and the general path to doctorate and teaching career she discovers, within the first year or so, that the academic study of business divides itself into standard groups; marketing, finance, operations, and so on, that don’t really include entrepreneurship (yet). And those functional divisions have generated a small set of academic journals, fewer than the fingers on one hand in most cases, that control her future. And the system of rewards and such within the small world of doctors of business is shockingly (to Leslie) well defined. Here is what she finds out:
- She can’t get the doctorate without a thesis.
- She’s not going to get into the upper echelon she wants for her career unless her thesis is published by one of those academic journals.
- And those journals focus on the standard specialties: marketing, finance, operations, etc. Not entrepreneurship.
Result: if she’s ambitious, Leslie drops the focus on entrepreneurship and moves over to finance or marketing or something else that’s more established within the academic hierarchies. And you, dear reader, can go from there to the other logical conclusions.
Think about the impact on education in entrepreneurship at the big business schools. Maybe it’s a good thing because it means more real-world entrepreneurs teaching, even if they’re normally adjunct instructors instead of professors. And maybe it’s not so good because it relegates entrepreneurship and the study of entrepreneurship to a lower rung on the career ladder. I don’t know.
If you’re out there in academia, reading this, and I’ve got it wrong, please tell me. I’ve had a chance to watch how this works. I haven’t been down this path myself, but I’ve been an adjunct instructor for a few years, teaching one class per year at the University of Oregon.
(photo credit: lynnlin/Shutterstock (modified by me))