A nation of shopkeepers? Education stifles entrepreneurial spirit in the UK, survey finds

David Woods , 08 Jun 2011


Nine out of 10 small business leaders feel that Britain's education system is failing to make the grade.

In a poll of 1,000 small business leaders for Huddlebuy, a group buying site for small businesses, 91% of respondents said they believe the current system is not geared towards producing entrepreneurs.

Many felt the skills needed to run a business simply aren't being taught to the nation's youngsters. More than half (59%) said the Government should place less emphasis on young people going to university; and more on getting real-world experience. And the survey showed that even more feel that academic qualifications will be largely irrelevant for Britain's future business leaders.

A whopping 84% believe that exams just aren't necessary for entrepreneurs. Some of Britain's best-known entrepreneurs have made it to the top with barely any academic qualifications.

They include the man doing the hiring and firing on The Apprentice, Lord Sugar, as well as Sir Richard Branson and Dragons' Den star Duncan Bannatyne. The survey also found that job applicants are unlikely to gain much of an advantage if they have a degree on their CV.

A small majority of the bosses polled (55%) said that if they had to choose between two equal candidates for a management job, they would hire one without a degree over a graduate because they believe a non-graduate who succeeds in business is likely to work harder.

Per Larsen, co-founder of Huddlebuy, said: "It's very much a 'must try harder' school report for Britain's universities from our customers. They clearly feel that the education system is leaving young people poorly prepared for the world of business.

"Napoleon once scoffed that Britain was a 'nation of shopkeepers'. But I think we should cherish out entrepreneurial spirit - and that the education system must do more to encourage it."

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Talent Foundation

Jane Sunley 08 Jun 2011

Bill Lucas of the Talent Foundation (of which I am a member) wrote an excellent piece, 'New Kinds of Smart' looking at emerging thinking on what it is to be smart today. He attests that IQ and other traditional intelligence factors ony account for about a quarter of what it is to be smart in today's rapidly changing world:

Plan B

nick goddard 08 Jun 2011

Presumably without a bundle of certificates, some of Britain's best known entrepreneurs had to work harder than their contemporaries. They did not have a relatively safe and secure career path.

Get an education !

Niall 09 Jun 2011

You always hear about entrepreneurs who were successful despite going to university, and it often comes across as though this means they are more likely to be successful, but you can't use a few indiviudual examples to prove the point. For every Branson and Sugar I've no doubt there's someone who's completed school, uni, corporate job and an MBA.

Wrong, wrong, wrong

John King 14 Jun 2011

An interesting survey which completely fails to represent the truth: whilst over 6.5% of graduates are engaged in entrepreneurial activity, less than 5% of non-graduates are. So not going to University hampers your chances of starting a business, just as it reduces your likely lifetime earnings. That is not to say that the education system does enough to stimulate entrepreneurial learning - clearly it does not, despite recent moves to improve the types of teaching on offer. However, reforming the entire education system takes time.

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