Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

Entrepreneurship-Small Business Education in American Universities

Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

Entrepreneurship-Small Business Education in American Universities

Article excerpt


Education for entrepreneurship and education for small business management are not the same thing. Entrepreneurship consists of originating, or starting, a company, and management consists of operating an existing company. In many small businesses the "entrepreneuring" took place long ago. Some small businesses were inherited. Some were purchased. Nevertheless, the two terms are so closely associated that it is almost impossible to study one without considering the other. In university education the two terms are often used interchangeably, and it is necessary to examine course descriptions in order to determine whether courses are aimed at starting-developing-selling a business, or at managing an ongoing business.

Birley, in studying the education of entrepreneurs, divided the field into three sets of potential customers (a) small business people themselves, both those just starting businesses and those managing ongoing enterprises; (b) advisors, such as bankers, C.P.A.s, and Government policy makers, and (c) conventional students. Each of the three has particular needs. Active entrepreneurs and small business people need information on services available and the laws within which they must operate as well as technical skills and advice and encouragement. Advisors need a conceptual framework for understanding problems facing the small firm, analytical skills to judge the viability of the entrepreneurial effort, and counseling and administrative skills. Conventional students need, in addition to coursework in the technical areas of business, courses specifically aimed at the peculiarities of new ventures and/or small business operations.

Although many universities provide educational opportunities for members of the community through adult education, continuing education, or special short courses, the primary emphasis of collegiate education is the conventional student enrolled in a degree program. The present study was conducted to identify the state of university education in entrepreneurship/small business.


The findings discussed in this article are based on a survey mailed to a nonrandom sample of 100 collegiate business schools throughout the United States. Schools were selected which were thought to be engaged in entrepreneurship/small business education, and generalizations should not extend beyond the limits of the sample. Although the sample was not statistically representative, it did cover a cross-section of universities. It included small, medium, and large schools, state and private institutions, and universities with a research orientation as well as those that concentrate more heavily on teaching and/or service. The questionnaire contained 31 items, many with multiple parts, and was divided into three sections: (1) general information, (2) graduate programs, and (3) undergraduate programs. The questionnaire was mailed to the dean of the business school at each university with the request that it be passed on to the appropriate individual or office responsible for entrepreneurial programs.


Responses were received from 76 institutions. Of these respondents, 70 (92%) were engaged in some type of entrepreneurial/small business education, research, and/or service. Table 1 presents a summary of respondents. For schools with entrepreneurship programs, the results in this and other tables are segmented by overall university enrollment.

Table 2 shows the distribution of educational activities among respondents with some type of program. Only five schools reported graduate specializations or majors in entrepreneurship, all of them small- and medium-sized schools. Eleven schools had undergraduate specializations or majors in entrepreneurship, with programs offered by both large and smaller schools. Most universities, however, offer only graduate and/or undergraduate courses, with no specialization or major in entrepreneurship available to students. …

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