Impact of formal entrepreneurial education on entrepreneurial success

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The term Entrepreneurship is defined as the "capacity and willingness to undertake conception, organisation and management of a productive venture with all the attendant risks, while seeking profit as a reward." (Business dictionary, 2010) Born in a family with a business background it became an obvious decision for me to become a businessman. Being self-employed and making important decisions that can change everything around you has always fascinated me. Starting a business without the help from my family is the reason for my interest in entrepreneurship. Once I made up my mind to be an entrepreneur the first question that came to mind was whether I should take up a course in entrepreneurship before venturing into a new business. Based upon my consultation with family and friends i decided to take up a master in business programme. I think doing a research on this topic will give me a better idea about the pros and cons of taking up a course in entrepreneurship before venturing into a new business. I am sure this research will help students to make an informed decision and also provide the existing entrepreneurs with an idea about updating their skills and knowledge. The characteristics that influence the entrepreneurial intent among students or prospective entrepreneurs will also be discussed. Some people still argue that entrepreneurs are born and not made; this study will try to provide some data and explanation in that regard and based on that a thesis will be developed and tested.

Research Approach

This is an exploratory research to gain an understanding of the importance of entrepreneurial education to be a successful entrepreneur. Keeping the literature review in mind a hypothesis is formed and tested. Thus it would be a positivist approach. Qualitative data collection approach is used as it is very important to understand the reasons behind one's success. Therefore an ethnographic approach seems a best fit here. This would be an applied research with a deductive approach as a hypothesis will be deduced and tested. Data collection will be structured and a non-statistical analysis will be done. The research finding will be presented in an appropriate format using electronic tools discussed further in this research. Finally some conclusions will be offered.

Literature Review

Kolveried.L and Moen.O (1997) who has conducted a research on entrepreneurship graduates and other business graduates found that entrepreneurship graduates were more likely to start a new business than other graduates. In this case the reason could probably be that those who took entrepreneurship as a major had intentions to start a business even before taking up the course. Considering Schein's (1993) work Kolveried.L and Moen.O (1997) say that 'creativity and entrepreneurship' and 'autonomy and independence' could be directly related to new venture creation and self-employment. Then in this case, education is not an important factor.

Henderson and Robertson (2000, p.2) suggest that educational courses can provide useful insights into the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and help develop skills and self-reliance. They also go on to say that "formal training is not the only form in which owner-managers learn, indeed much of their training is on-the-job through cumulative experience and the personal contact network through which they operate." So, from this it is evident that capability, passion, self-interest are primary factors that are needed to be an entrepreneur. But having a formal education would definitely help in making good decisions as one would have more knowledge on entrepreneurship.

Luthje.C and Franke.N (2003) who have studied entrepreneurial intent among engineering students found that personality traits such as entrepreneurial attitude strongly linked with the intention to start a new venture. They found that exploration of entrepreneurial activities among students is relevant only if a minimum of entrepreneurial spirit exists. In that sense, if one studies entrepreneurship without having any passion towards new venture creation then his/her chances of being an entrepreneur is close to nil.

According to Johanisson (1991) entrepreneurship education can be classified into five levels of learning :

Why entrepreneurs act


What needs to be done


How it should be done


Who should we know


When to act


Looking at the above diagram it is evident that both motivation and knowledge are important to be a successful entrepreneur.

Souitaris, Zerbinati and Al-Laham (2007) suggest that knowledge gained from an entrepreneurship programme would improve one's ability to identify opportunities and therefore increase their entrepreneurial intentions.


Though there is very less research evidence to suggest that a formal entrepreneurial education leads to successful entrepreneurship, the above literature review leads to the following hypotheses :

H0 : Formal entrepreneurial education has no effect on entrepreneurial success.

H1 : Formal entrepreneurial education increases entrepreneurial success.

In this scenario 'formal entrepreneurial education' is the independent variable and 'entrepreneurial success' is the dependant variable.

Data Collection

Since the research design is qualitative, four methods have been suggested by Collis and Hussey (2009) which are indirect, observation, interview/discussion and participation. A non-standardized structured interview is best suited here since the approach is positivist and provides the flexibility of using various means like personal interviews (face-to-face / telephonic), group discussions (panel interview) or via the internet. (Maylor and Blackmon, 2005, p.315). A pre-planned set of directed questions will serve the purpose of gaining the required data/knowledge.

Interviews will be conducted with a large number of people and the units of this sample will be successful entrepreneurs having different levels of educational qualification. A non-probability sampling technique will be use to gather the qualitative data. Since the sample size is large a purposive sample of entrepreneurs who were successful or are doing well will be chosen and this will be followed by snowball sampling technique to gain access to more such entrepreneurs. The views and experiences of these qualified entrepreneurs will then be compared and contrasted against those of the entrepreneurs who are successful without any formal entrepreneurial education. Thus a combination of primary data (interviewed entrepreneurs) and secondary data (published examples like Bill Gates - Microsoft, Richard Branson - Virgin, Walt Disney - Disney, Michael Dell - Dell, J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter series, etc) will be made for further analysis.

Data Analysis Approach

The interview responses collected will then be analysed using a combination of the following two approaches:

Discourse Analysis : A qualitative method adopted and constructed by constructionists.

Content Analysis : "A constant comparative method of qualitative analysis" (Lindesmith, 1965).

Though both of these approaches differ in several ways, Hardy et al (2004) argued that they are complementary to each other and can be used together as mutually supportive in the exploration of social reality. Hence this combination is best suited for this study. Based on this approach the analytical process used is discussed below.

Data Analysis Process

Against the views of Bryman (1988:81) Saunders et al (2009, p. 489-490) argue that a deductive approach can be successfully applied to qualitative analysis even though this statement is still under debate. For this an exploratory framework based on a mixture of theory and my own expectations will be used to start and direct the analysis. They also suggest three processes for grouping the interview responses:

" Summarizing : condensation of meanings

Categorization : grouping of meanings

Structuring : Ordering of meanings using narrative."

Thus on the basis of a pre-determined analytical framework the data both from interview and those derived from theory will be put in the form of data codes and categories for final presentation after analysis using the following tools .

Data Analysis Tools

According to Maylor and Blackmon (2005, p. 381) qualitative data can be analysed in the following three ways :

Simply by hand

Using a word processed program

Using specialised computer programs.

Of these the most convenient is a word processed program like Microsoft Word. However the other non-statistical tools such as CAQDAS (Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software), QSR NVives, winMAX etc will be used preferably as they have been deemed to be extremely popular in educational research and these have also been proved to enhance interview data analysis. (Horta et al, 2009).

Finally this analysis will be assessed for its reliability, credibility, generalizability and validity thereby improving the overall quality of the data analysis. The result of this analysis will either support the hypotheses or oppose them. Scope for further research will be developed in case the hypotheses are neglected.

Research Limitations

Since this study involves personal interaction with and interview of entrepreneurs at times it is only possible to do this research in the locality i.e., within the United Kingdom due to time and resource constraints. Online survey options such as email, etc will also be used to improve the data collected for this research but this may result in approximate values rather than precise information. Since the subjects of this research are busy entrepreneurs the problem of limited or no response will also have to be dealt with. Also personal biases may occur but efforts made to avoid them.


During this research complete care will be taken to keep all the personal information and data collected confidential. Anonymity will be maintained and personal influence will be refrained from. All activities done during this research will be done keeping the university policies, guidelines and code of conduct in mind. No human rights will be violated and no individual will be forced to participate in this research and hence only voluntary subjects will be used to gain research data. The research findings will be presented in a clear and simple format so as to allow easy understanding of the paper by all those reading it. Due care has been taken to avoid any errors/mistakes and apologies for any slip-ups so far.


An exploratory research with a positivist approach has been used to study the effect of formal entrepreneurial education on the success of entrepreneurs. Efforts will be made to consider an equal number of educated entrepreneurs as there will be entrepreneurs without any formal entrepreneurial education to get an unbiased dataset. Several literatures that are closely related to this topic of research have been reviewed in the literature review which led to the formulation of the hypothesis. Qualitative data collection approach is used and analysed by using a combination of content and discourse analysis methods. Electronic tools will also be used to analyse the data collected. Based on the result of the analysis, the hypotheses will either be considered true or false. As this research is conducted under time constraints and limited resources it may not be generalised. This can therefore be used by other interested researchers to conduct a more elaborate research taking up a larger and diverse subjective sampling and considering other factors which might have been missed in this study. This research will give a basic knowledge of the benefits of entrepreneurial education and thus help prospective entrepreneurs make an informed decision and existing entrepreneurs will be able to consider the benefits of such entrepreneurial courses.