The core of social entrepreneurship is to contribute to social change and create social values. While social entrepreneurship is not a new phenomenon and widely accepted in higher education, these central values are still to some extent at odds with traditional values of disciplines in the social sciences and the arts. These still favour more the role of the researcher as standing outside the society and contributing to enlightenment rather than being a societal actor enacting social change.

The problem

These differences in perception on the role of science and scientific knowledge in societies challenge academic staff to reflect on their attitudes and values about valorising their work. In some cases, this can cause resistance against social entrepreneurship, when the concept is misunderstood with regard to value creation and contributing to social change. Also, the propagation of social entrepreneurship as an additional task to the academic portfolio can create disapproval among academic staff when individual benefits of engagement are not communicated well.

While most students have a positive attitude towards social entrepreneurship, some are reluctant to engage in it as they see it as an additional burden that or task that will not add to their skills profile or delay their graduation.

Solutions at institutional level

  • Awareness building among academic staff
    Awareness building is a major remedy to clarify on misunderstandings of the concept of social entrepreneurship. Dissemination of good practice examples and including staff in the development of social entrepreneurship strategy as active participants. Awareness building should consider the various concepts of social entrepreneurship that are currently available (Paunescu et al 2013).
  • Awareness building among students
    Awareness building among students can point to the special skill set they can gain from participating in service learning or collaborative research projects with the social sector.
  • Incentives for academic staff
    To stimulate social entrepreneurship among academic staff various incentives beyond financial compensations can be used. Effective incentives are able to demonstrate a individual benefit for academic staff. These can be: Including social entrepreneurship as a promotion criterion in career schemes is one opportunity. In addition, social entrepreneurship can also be stimulated by benefits that represent aspects of academic work, including joy in finding solutions and doing research, creativity. Also, tapping the morale of academics and representing their special contribution to social communities stimulate these behaviours.
  • Incentives for students
    Adding ECTS to achievements or engagement in the social sector represent an important incentive. Supporting students in finding opportunities to work in the social sector are also helpful.
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Other relevant resources
  • n/a
Links to selected HEInnovate case studies
  • Not covered in HEInnovate
Further reading
  • Lepik, Katri-Liis; Urmanavičienė, Audronė (2022): The Role of Higher Education Institutions in Development of Social Entrepreneurship: The Case of Tallinn University Social Entrepreneurship Study Program, Estonia. In Carmen Păunescu, Katri-Liis Lepik, Nicholas Spencer (Eds.): Social Innovation in Higher Education. Landscape, Practices, and Opportunities. 1st ed. 2022. Cham: Springer International Publishing; Imprint Springer (Springer eBook Collection), pp. 129–151.
  • Neves, Sara; Brito, Carlos (2020): Academic entrepreneurship intentions: a systematic literature review. In JMD 39 (5), pp. 645–704. DOI: 10.1108/JMD-11-2019-0451.
  • Paunescu, Carmen; Dragan, Denisa; Cantaragiu, Ramona; Filculescu, Adina (2013): Towards a Conceptualization of Social Entrepreneurship in Higher Education. In The International Journal of Management Science and Information Technology (10), pp. 51–69. Available online at
  • Harding, Rebecca (2007): Understanding Social Entrepreneurship. In Industry & Higher Education, pp. 73–84.
  • Roslan, Muhammad Hamirul Hamizan; Hamid, Suraya; Ijab, Mohamad Taha; Yusop, Farrah Dina; Norman, Azah Anir (2020): Social entrepreneurship in higher education: challenges and opportunities. In Asia Pacific Journal of Education, pp. 1–17. DOI: 10.1080/02188791.2020.1859354.