Entrepreneur education at tipping point

Updated 2017-05-08 09:31:27 China Daily

Universities realize EE could be viable business, target students and investors

Xu Zhong is with Tsinghua University but his work is radically different from that of his colleagues (who are mainly into lectures and research). As the general manager and shareholder of the China Institute of Entrepreneurship, which is part of Tsinghua University, Xu travels, gives speeches, makes sales pitches and sews up financing deals.

Or, when not doing any of that, he trains aspiring entrepreneurs on how to do all of that.

"Educating tomorrow's entrepreneurs is vital for the nation's future as China is striving to maintain high levels of economic growth," said Xu.

Xu was part of China's first batch of MBA scholars in 1996. He participated and won a business startup competition in 1998. That proved to be a key milestone as well as a turning point in his career and life. It pitchforked him from a potential career of white-collar jobs to a pioneer of entrepreneurship education in China.

Experts use the phrase "double-E" (abbreviation EE) to refer to entrepreneurship education. Xu said EE is all the more important now because the central government has been emphasizing mass entrepreneurship and innovation since 2014.

So, training of entrepreneurs could be a viable niche business in China, he said.

Agreed Wang Wei, founder of a firm that provides medical services for autistic children. "It's hard to survive if we don't have support from professional quarters."

College students, he said, usually start with a concept about a product or service but have no idea about aspects of a business or organization like team-building, marketing and financing.

But the scene is changing. Research shows a rise in recent years in the number of college graduates who founded or joined startups. Around 204,000 undergraduates chose to start their own business in 2015. But their success rate is only 10 percent, which is far lower than that in other countries.

"Good entrepreneurship education can lead to entrepreneurial success and help promote an entrepreneurial culture," said Mao Donghui, executive director of X-Lab of Tsinghua, a startup incubator education platform. "This explains why entrepreneurship academics become popular in the West.

"Colleges all around the country are our main customers who are required since 2016 by the Ministry of Education to provide EE courses," said Xu.

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