The response of students is generally positive. Many students affirm that the course is off immense value to them. As at this moment however, no formal evaluation has been done with respect to this course.

Introduction

          Nigeria faces a major problem of graduate unemployment. Young men and women leave the Universities and Polytechnics every year with very little hope of securing jobs. Dabalen, Oni and Adekola (2000) studied the labour market prospects of University graduates in Nigeria and found the unemployment rate for graduates to be around 25% while their prospects for employment have worsened over time. Hoping to improve their chances of employment, some recycle themselves into postgraduate programmes. Others who do not see any hope of self-sustainance outside the University, devise ways of remaining within the system but engage in various anti-social activities such as cultism.


 

EDUCATION FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP:

Experience at the University Benin

Benin City, Nigeria

 

 

 

 

By

 

Dr. A. U. Inegbenebor

Department of Business Administration

University of Benin

Benin City

 

 

 

 

A paper presented at the Inaugural Conference

of the Academy of Management Nigeria.

held at Abuja on November 22nd and 23rd, 2005.


The response of students is generally positive. Many students affirm that the course is off immense value to them. As at this moment however, no formal evaluation has been done with respect to this course.

Introduction

          Nigeria faces a major problem of graduate unemployment. Young men and women leave the Universities and Polytechnics every year with very little hope of securing jobs. Dabalen, Oni and Adekola (2000) studied the labour market prospects of University graduates in Nigeria and found the unemployment rate for graduates to be around 25% while their prospects for employment have worsened over time. Hoping to improve their chances of employment, some recycle themselves into postgraduate programmes. Others who do not see any hope of self-sustainance outside the University, devise ways of remaining within the system but engage in various anti-social activities such as cultism.

          The problem is exacerbated because private sector organizations have found that they can only survive the fierce competition resulting from globalisation by adopting new technologies and processes, and reorganising themselves so that they can become more flexible and light-footed. This reorganization, re-engineering or right-sizing has resulted in massive less of jobs in the private sector. The public sector has also been infected by the virus of reorganization and repositioning following global imperatives. First, public policy has positioned the private sector, in place of the public sector, as the engine of growth of the economy. Second, to achieve efficiency which is assumed to be correlated with private sector model of management several public sector organizations have been or are being privatized or commercialized. The net effect of these changes is that the public sector which, historically, absorbed the bulk of graduates of tertiary institutions could no longer play this role (Dabalen, Oni and Adekola, 2000). Perhaps the most significant factor that has complicated the problem of graduate unemployment is the slow growth of the economy. Between 1995 and 2002, GDP grew at an average of only 3.3% per annum (OECD, 2002). Thus, the capacity of the economy to absorb the products of an over expanding tertiary institutions is severely limited.

          Even though these fundamental and unprecedented changes are occurring and are obviously irreversible, Universities continue to mass produce the same standard products for the labour market. According to Yesufu (2000), “most Nigerians are being educated out of context” (p.343). Universities have paid very little attention to the changing labour market conditions inspite of promptings by pubic officials and international agencies urging them to do so. Rather than being at the forefront proactively converting these changes into opportunities for innovative programmes, the University system in Nigeria seem to have assumed a production orientation oblivious of the needs of the economy.

          Recently, Nigeria evolved the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) which is described as a home grown medium term development and poverty reduction plan. NEEDS rests on four key pillars one of which is “Growing the Private Sector”. Under NEEDS, the private sector is positioned as the engine of growth of the economy. It is in this context that Nigerian Universities under the aegis of the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) committed themselves to produce entrepreneurial graduates for the stimulation of private sector growth in Nigeria (NUC, 2004).

          Through NEEDS therefore the education and training of entrepreneurs in Nigeria became a national agenda. Before NEEDS however, the National University Commission had incorporated entrepreneurial development as a compulsory course to be taught in undergraduate programmes of administration and management under its approved minimum academic standards for Nigerian Universities (NUC, 1989). The aim of the Commission was to have a curriculum that will “encourage self reliance in the individual and of the nation” (Ibid, p.1).

          The University of Benin has had about twenty-five years of experience teaching entrepreneurship to undergraduate and postgraduate students in the Department of Business Administration. Subsequently and following the requirement of the NUC minimum academic standards, he course also became compulsory for undergraduate students in the Departments of Accounting and later Banking and Finance (2003/2004). In 1999, the Senate of the University of Benin approved that a 2-credit course in entrepreneurship be offered by all undergraduate students of the University irrespective of discipline. The aim of this paper is to share the experience gained at the University of Benin in teaching entrepreneurship in the last twenty-five years and to encourage discussion on strengthening entrepreneurship education in Nigerian Universities.

Entrepreneurship Development in Nigeria

          Current research evidence indicates that the establishment of new small and medium businesses is associated with job creation, innovation and enhanced productivity in the economy. To stimulate rapid economic development especially in developing countries, it is important to focus on preparing the entrepreneurs who would start new businesses or expand existing ones. Stevenson (2001:6) suggested that preparing future entrepreneurs entail:

·                    active promotion of entrepreneurship

·                    integrating entrepreneurship in the educational system

·                    reducing regulatory and administrative barriers to business entry

·                    providing business supports that help people through the pre-nascent, nascent and early venture stages of the entrepreneurial process.

Efforts to stimulate economic development through the strategy of entrepreneurship development is not new in Nigeria. Several institutions and government agencies have been engaged in different aspects of fostering entrepreneurship in Nigeria since the seventies. The Centre for Management Development whose mandate included entrepreneurship development (Williams, 2003) attempted to develop a model to facilitate the identification, selection and training of potential entrepreneurs. Institutions such as the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), the defunct Nigeria Industrial Development Bank (NIDB) and the Nigerian Bank for Commerce and Industry (NBCI) and the Nigerian Youth Service Corps (NYSC) have had programmes for entrepreneurship development. However, these efforts have almost always been short-lived and have had minimal impact on the Nigerian economy. The delivery of the programmes were poor, ad hoc and uncoordinated. According to Ekpeyong (1988:139) the delivery of entrepreneurship development programmes in Nigeria is poor as “… a variety of teachers are hurriedly assembled and given materials also hurriedly written…”. The period of training is often inadequate and follow-up activities are neglected. Nevertheless, participants of Entrepreneurship Development Programmes (EDP) rate them positively (Imanyi, 1990).

Government-sponsored EDP have had the tendency to emphasize the provision of capital on the assumption that the limiting factor inhibiting the assumption of entrepreneurship role by Nigerians is lack of capital (Osoba, 1985). Several organs of government have been established to channel funds to small and medium scale industries with limited results (Inang & Ukpong, 1992). Edo and Dimowo (2001) studied the operations of the NDE programme in Edo and Delta States between 1987 and 1997 and found that of the 81 new businesses established by beneficiaries of the scheme, 74 failed (ceased to exist) within the same period. A voluntary initiative of the Bankers Committee in 2001 led to the creation of the Small and Medium Enterprises Equity Investment Scheme (SMEEIS) to facilitate the flow of funds to small and medium industries (SMIs) in the real sector. The scheme requires banks to set aside 10% of their pretax profit for equity investment in SMIs. However, while a total of N22.3 billion had been set aside by various banks between 2001 and 2004, only N7.71 billion or 35% had actually been invested in SMIs (Sanusi, 2004).

A variety of companies, NGOs, the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA), international institutions such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) the United Nations Development Programme (UNIDO) etc, engage in entrepreneurial development activities including the training of EDP trainers.

However, while these efforts have created awareness of the role of entrepreneurs in a private sector-led economy, the scope of the programmes are unlikely to ever reach the critical mass of the Nigerian population. Neither are they sufficient to create an entrepreneurial culture in the society and change the orientation of youths from that of a job seeker to that of job creator. Integrating entrepreneurship in the educational system, has great potential in achieving these goals.

By the turn of the 21st Century, as many as 1600 Universities in North America were offering courses in entrepreneurship compared to merely two dozens in the 70s (Kuratko, 2003). These courses fairly easily penetrated the curricula of business schools but less easily in engineering schools except in departments where students had training in accounting, economic analysis and other business areas (Vespar, 1982). In the view of the latter, the penetration of entrepreneurship into University curriculum in North America was aided by three factors. First, students liked the course and the demand for it was high. Second, Universities that benefited from federal government grants to establish innovation centers introduced courses in entrepreneurship because they found that such courses were central to innovation. Third, Universities that participated in the Small Business Administration Programme had to introduce courses in small business management and entrepreneurship if they were to obtain the funds offered by the programme.

Vyakarnam (2003) attributed the introduction and growth of enterpreneurship education into the curricula of Universities in the United Kingdom to the need of Universities to serve the innovation needs of businesses, to produce graduates with transferable skills for businesses and to be able to access funding from the Higher Education Funding Council.

 

Universities and Entrepreneurship Education

          The traditional role of Universities in society is the advancement of the frontiers of knowledge, accumulation and dissemination of knowledge for the overall development of society. In recent years, Universities have sought to make themselves more relevant to society. Drawing upon their major strength which is the availability of a large pool of technical expertise and creativity, Universities have assumed a new role of being at the forefront in promoting technical change and innovation (Stankiewicz, 1986).

          One of the areas where Universities have responded to the needs of society is in the area of entrepreneurship research and education. Whereas earlier scholars merely recognized the entrepreneur as a factor of production, they did not see it as a significant area of teaching and research. Recently however, entrepreneurship has been described as “a discipline requiring its own fairly simple roles” (Drucker, 1985:x) and a behaviour that can be learned (Ibid, page 23). In the last three decades, entrepreneurship has emerged as an area of study by economists, sociologists, anthropologists and management scientists. It has developed worldwide as an academic discipline with journals, books, symposia and international conferences and has been acclaimed as “the business discipline of the 21st Century” (ICSB, 1999: 9).

 

While the gospel of   entrepreneurship education in Universities is spreading rapidly across the world, the question that has not been adequately answered is how to teach entrepreneurship more effectively? What should be taught and how should it be taught? (Kuratko, 2003). Since knowledge regarding these questions remains relatively underdeveloped, teachers of entrepreneurship in Universities are left on their own to experiment on topics to teach as well as ways to teach them (Blenker, et al, 2004).

          What to teach and how to teach it depends on the overall aim that a given entrepreneurship education programme seeks to achieve. Broadly, the choice is between seeking to improve students ability to perform entrepreneurial functions with a strong practical bias or developing students conceptual about entrepreneurship. Most successful entrepreneurship education programmes make the choice after carefully assessing the needs of students, the community, the strengths and interests of faculty as well as the strategic focus of the University (Upton, 2003). This explains why different Universities have uniquely different aims and approaches entrepreneurship education. What to teach: At the initial stages of entrepreneurship education, Loucks (1982) was of the opinion that the best that can be achieved by educators was to seek to change the perception of students by making them aware of the nature and scope of entrepreneurship, the characteristics and role demands of entrepreneurs and the impact of social, economic and political environment on new ventures creation. Reviews of best practices of leading entrepreneurship education centers by Kuratko (2003) and Blenker, et al (2004) show that entrepreneurship education has progressed with more specific aims such as to:

·                    show students how to behave entrepreneurially;

·                    build skills in negotiation, networking, technological innovation, etc. to facilitate success in entrepreneurial career;

·                    create awareness of barriers to initiating entrepreneurial career and how to overcome them.

These indicate that entrepreneurship education has taken a form and occupied a nitche that is quite different from that of management even though they are related.

          Henderson (1995) identified the winning strategies of successful entrepreneurs which potential entrepreneurs can use to create a moneymaking business to include:

(a)              conceptualising a product or service to meet a defined need;

(b)              evaluating the potential of the business idea by analysing the trends in the economy which may influence the fortunes of the business;

(c)              developing a credible business plan;

(d)              assembly the needed resources to implement the plan;

(e)              launching the business;

(f)                expanding the business;

(g)              developing capacity to manage atrocity and crises when they occur;

(h)              managing the successful venture.

This suggests the key issues on which potential entrepreneurs can be educated and trained to sharpen their skills. [From various studies reviewed by Kuratko (2003), entrepreneurship education includes skill building in negotiation, leadership, new product development, creative thinking and exposure to technological innovation. Other areas highlighted as important for entrepreneurial education are sources of venture capital, idea protection, characteristics of entrepreneurs, challenges of each stage of venture development and awareness of entrepreneurial career options. To Blenker, et al (2004), the central problems in entrepreneurship are how to discover opportunities, how to evaluate the opportunities, how to assemble the needed resources and how to create a competitive advantage. Review of the curriculum of leading entrepreneurship education centres indicate that venture initiation, entrepreneurial skills and behaviour, venture financing, managing growth and field studies are core areas in entrepreneurship education (Upton, 2004).

How to teach: How to teach entrepreneurship addresses the issues of how best to stimulate students interest in entrepreneurship, how best to transfer information, skill and attitudes relevant for successful venture creation and sustainance. Researchers have found widespread use of experiential learning in entrepreneurial education in most Universities (Streeter, Jaquette and Hovis, 2002; Blenker, Dreisler, Paergemann and Kjeldsen, 2004; Sandercock, 2001; Kuratko, 2003). Experiential learning This is an effort to integrate real world experiences with conceptual learning. It involves various techniques as “live” case analysis, business plans, consulting with practising entrepreneurs, interviews of entrepreneurs by students, use of entrepreneurs as guest speakers, internship in entrepreneurially-run businesses, student involvement in product development teams, simulation, field trips, use of video and films etc. The  major advantage of experiential learning is that the student is actively involved in the learning process.

Also widely used is the lecture method which is suitable for providing information, explaining concepts and theories where necessary.

 

Entrepreneurship Education at the University of Benin

Background:

          Long before NUC prescribed entrepreneurship development as part of the minimum academic standards for undergraduate degree programmes in Business Administration and Accounting in 1989, the University of Benin had started its pioneering activities in entrepreneurship education in Nigeria. In the early eighties, the University introduced a 3-credit course in entrepreneurship development as a core course for undergraduate, postgraduate diploma and MBA students of the Department of Business Administration. Entrepreneurship development also became compulsory for Accounting students following the NUC approved minimum academic standards. In the recently introduced M.Sc. programme, entrepreneurship development featured as an integral part. Students also have the option of doing their doctoral work in the area of entrepreneurship.

          In 1999, the Senate of the University of Benin approved a 2-credit course in entrepreneurship to be offered to all non-business and accounting undergraduate students of the University.

The objectives of the programme were to:

(a)  Create an entrepreneurship culture among students of the University of Benin and the society in general;

(b)  Ensure that all undergraduates of the University of Benin are knowledgeable about entrepreneurship and motivated to establish their own businesses on completion of their degree programmes.

(c)  Assist students identify opportunities and the avenues for acquiring resources required for successful entrepreneurial pursuits (Senate paper 12/03/04).

This was a significant innovation in the Nigerian University System. To coordinate and facilitate the new University wide programme, a Centre for Entrepreneurship Development was established.

Mission and Goals of the University: The mission of the University of Benin as contained in the Strategic Plan (2002-2012) is

To develop the human mind to be creative, innovative, research oriented, competent in areas of specialisation, knowledgeable in entrepreneurship and dedicated to service. (University of Benin, 2002:12).

Among other goals, the University of Benin seeks “to strengthen the creative and innovative values and entrepreneurial capacities of the humanities, education and law so as to make them more relevant to the national development process “(University of Benin, 2002:15).

          These show clearly that entrepreneurship education occupies a strategic position in the University of Benin. What has now been articulated in the Strategic Plan of the University is the accumulation of several years of experience in entrepreneurship education in the University.

          Entrepreneurship Development Centre: The primary role of the Centre is stimulation of entrepreneurial competencies among students, staff and the community. The Entrepreneurship Development Centre is expected to:

·                    Develop and offer courses, seminars, workshops and conferences to advance and propagate entrepreneurship.

·                    Offer a 2-credit course to penultimate/final-year students.

·                    Provide clinics in entrepreneurship to students, staff and members of the public.

·                    Serve as a National Centre for the training and development of experts in entrepreneurship.

·                    Promote research and experimentation in entrepreneurship.

Another important role assigned to the Entrepreneurship Development Centre is the commercialisation of innovations and innovations. The Centre is expected to:

·                    Identify all innovations and inventions in the University for the purpose of assisting the innovators/inventors to commercialise them and establish contacts with potentials business partners.

·                    Provide inventors/innovators technical and professional expertise to patent and further develop their inventions/innovations (University of Benin, 2002:54-55).

Of these programmes, only the 2-credit University-wide entrepreneurship course has taken off. It started in the 2000/2001 academic year in the Faculty of Law. As at the 2004/2005 academic year, the course had been incorporated into the curriculum of the Faculties of Agriculture, Arts, Education, Law, Science and Social Sciences (except Business Administration, Accounting, Banking and Finance which operates the 3-credit compulsory course administered by the Department of Business Administration).

University-wide 2 credit Course: The aim of the course is to introduce students who do not have accounting or business background to the basic concepts and practice of entrepreneurship. The course objectives are to enable students to be able to:

(a)              explain the nature and responsibilities of an entrepreneur in starting and running an enterprise;

(b)              identify and analyse business opportunities;

(c)              develop a business plan

(d)              identify, secure and manage resources effectively.

Topics discussed include generating and developing business ideas, conducting market survey, preparing a business plan, legal aspects of entrepreneurship including business registration formalities and simple elements of contract, financing a business venture, record keeping, export operations and marketing products or services.

The teaching method at present tends to emphasize lectures due to the class size. The average class size is in excess of three hundred students. In addition, students are required prepare and present one assigned exercise in groups.

There are strong indications that students have a positive attitude to the course. A sample survey of the reactions of students to the University-wide entrepreneurship programme shows that 47% of the 187 respondents strongly agreed that the course had positive impact on them while 33% said it had some impact. Only 13% felt it did not have any impact.

On respondents rating of the content of the course, 42% said it was very good while 40% said it was good. Only 5% said it was poor or very poor. In terms of the usefulness of the reading materials provided to the students, 77% said they were useful while 11% said they were not useful. As much as 65% felt that the course provided them significantly new information while 27% said the information gathered was fairly new.

Respondents were asked to make suggestion on ways of improving the impact of the entrepreneurship course. As high as 41% suggested that the course should be made more practical and another 14% suggested the use of teaching aids. Reduction of class size was suggested by 10% of the respondents and another 10% felt the course should be introduced at an earlier level instead of the penultimate or final year at which it is currently taken. The major source of complaints are the course being too theoretical (33%), inadequate reading materials (21%), non-conducive learning environment (19%) and class-size too large (13%). These responses suggest the need to adopt experiential learning in teaching the course to smaller-size classes and the use of teaching aid. It means the present tendency to use the lecture method may not lead to desired results.

Entrepreneurship Course for Business, Accounting, Banking and Finance Departments:

          The assumption in this course is that students have adequate background knowledge of business, accounting and management concepts. The aim of the course it to develop entrepreneurial orientation and skills in students, to explore the nature and opportunities for entrepreneurship and to encourage them to address themselves to the possibility of employing the abundant resources of the country in the capacity of an entrepreneur.

The first aspects of the course is a general survey of the nature, roles and functions of entrepreneurship, types and characteristics of entrepreneurs. The focus here is to show, through discussions and student interaction with active entrepreneurs, that anyone who is sufficiently motivated, can learn the behaviours associated with successful entrepreneurship..

The second aspect of the course focuses on the processes of starting a business, identifying business opportunities, market survey and choosing opportunities, selecting appropriate technology, location and site, business planning, financing the business, managing growth and managing succession. This section of the course attempts to be as practical as possible. Students are required, as part of their evaluation, to identify, study and write a business plan on any business opportunity of their choice in groups of at most five. At the postgraduate level, students are in addition; required to read assigned texts and make oral presentations in class. Occasionally, if the conditions permit, practicing entrepreneurs are invited to “tell it as it is” to the class.

The third component focuses on developing negotiation skills and time management skills. This is done largely through lectures, and discussions.


 

Challenges of Entrepreneurship Education in Nigeria Universities

Various tertiary institutions in Nigeria are gradually incorporating entrepreneurship education into their curriculum. The Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye may be the first University in Nigeria to offer Entrepreneurship as a Degree programme. Entrepreneurship education is provided in different universities in different forms. There are major challenges which need to be discussed and addressed if entrepreneurship education is expected to attain the desired goals in this country.

 

a.     Orientation of Student:  it is important to note that entrepreneurship is not yet a popular vocational choice among young people in Nigeria. The dominant culture at the moment is a wage-earner culture. In many ways, the socio-cultural environment does not favour entrepreneurship given the collectivist values of the society. There is a need therefore for entrepreneurship education to have  a significant promotional content to stimulate and sustain the interest of students in the programme.

b.     Orientation of University Administration: Many University administrators are largely ignorant of the value ad potential of entrepreneurship education in national competitiveness and development. Entrepreneurship education in such institutions may not have the level of support that it needs to gain acceptance among students and staff. It is important that university administration seek to educate themselves on entrepreneurship education. The National Universities Commission (NUC) should go beyond prescribing the minimum academic standards with respect to entrepreneurship education to organizing seminars and workshops with the aim of enhancing the knowledge of University administrators in this area.

c.     What to teach and to who: Our discussion in this paper points to the need to study the entrepreneurship educational needs of students, the community and society in designing entrepreneurship programmes. There is need to understand that there is a difference between entrepreneurship and small business management. It is suggested that NUC provides a forum for entrepreneurship teachers and educators to brainstorm for the purpose of generating ideas for use by universities. This is not to suggest that a standard programme should be forced on universities.

The question of who is to be target entrepreneurship is important. While everybody can benefit from entrepreneurship education, the constraints of large class size for teaching effectiveness makes it imperative for this question to be addressed. Should entrepreneurship be an elective or a compulsory course? Should students be allowed to self-select themselves for entrepreneurship education. Whatever the answer to these questions, it is important that entrepreneurship is promoted heavily among young people.

 

d.     Who is to teach entrepreneurship: At the moment, teaching entrepreneurship is an all-comers game. As the programme becomes more popular, many more academics who do not have the required preparation are bound to jump into the train. Yet teaching entrepreneurship requires special training and experience. Once again the National Universities Commission (NUC) and each university, polytechnic and colleges of Education need to build capacity in this area to have meaningful results.

One technique that can be useful in improving of teachers entrepreneurship to encourage the educational institution involved to share resources, knowledge and experience in this area through seminars, conferences and workshops. Indeed the Nigerian Academy of Management can provide a platform for such collaboration among universities, polytechnics and colleges of Education.

e.     Lack of teaching Materials: There is a dearth of teaching materials especially case materials that are suitable for teaching entrepreneurship in Nigerian Universities. It is suggested that entrepreneurship teachers in the various institutions should embark on producing real cases, projects of entrepreneurs, and exercises that are suitable for experiential learning among students. In this regard, I want to command the efforts of Professor Albert J. Alos of Lagos Business School who recently published the Pains and Gains of Growth: Case Studies on Entrepreneurship for his pioneering work in this area.

f.       Un-co-ordinated and weak institutional support for entrepreneurship education: Government and its agencies responsible for entrepreneurship development has not started to address the problem of entrepreneurship education at all levels of the educational system. Our review of the literature indicate clearly that the stimulation and sustenance of entrepreneurship education and small business management training can be traced to carefully articulated government policy and funding. Agencies such as the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDA) needs to address this issue with the aim of providing funds to the universities and other institution for entrepreneurship education.

Conclusion

The university of Benin has pioneered entrepreneurship education in the country. Many other universities have established entrepreneurship development centres and programmes. The issues on what to teach how to teach and with what materials are being experimented within each institution. The time has come for Nigerian universities to collaborate, share knowledge, experience and resources in order to enhance the quality of entrepreneurship education available in our universities. It is also time for the Federal government, the NUC and other agencies such as SMEDA to assist universities to deepen entrepreneurship education for the benefit of national competitiveness and development.

g.