Travelouge – Trip to the UK to explore VCPs

Written by Kristoffer Holm Tvinnereim & Karoline Saastad, February 2019

Purpose of the trip

The goal of the trip was for Engage to learn more about how other universities implement a study program in entrepreneurship, especially a VCP (Venture Creation Program). By reaching out to universities that in some way fit into the general perception of what a VCP is, we were able to book meetings with four different universities throughout the UK:

  • University College London
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Buckingham
  • Coventry University

Throughout the trip, we found out that all universities have their own take on how running a VCP looks like, with advantages and disadvantages for all different ways to do it. Some institutions had VCPs for bachelor programs, while others had a one-year master’s degree.

Read on to learn more about our experiences at the different universities we met.

UCL

For our first stop of the trip, we visited UCL. With over 41,000 students, UCL is a massive university with a big network of entrepreneurial activities and great potential for innovation. The master’s degree here were separated from the incubator facilities, due to government restrictions on the incubator building space. This meant that the incubator was more separated from the VCP students than what you see here in Trondheim, and more students from different parts of the university used the incubator space to work on their startups.

Key takeaways

  • UCL has a great space for office work and events, where students can sit and work in a creative environment.
  • The VCP at UCL is physically separated from the incubation space at two different locations, yet students use both locations for different purposes.

University of Cambridge

As one of the oldest and most prestigious education institutions in the world, we had great expectations for our visit to Cambridge University. So much great research is done at this institution, including research on new ventures and entrepreneurship.

Cambridge has previously not had a huge focus on educating and facilitating entrepreneurship in the past. Most of the technology developed are sold to larger corporations instead of becoming a spin-out from the university.

Through a two-year meeting-based masters program at Judge Business School, students spend four residential weeks at Cambridge throughout the program and work through online courses during the rest of the studies. The second year of the program is devoted to starting a new venture with support from mentors and the team that students assemble during the first year.

Key Takeaways

  • Cambridge is a huge university with every opportunity to expand their entrepreneurial support to aid students in pursuing new ventures.
  • While the support for entrepreneurial students has not been a big focus previously, it’s currently growing with multiple programs.

University of Buckingham

Buckingham is a small town with 13,000 inhabitants that is located between Cambridge and Oxford. The University of Buckingham has 1,300 students and a VCP at bachelor level where the students must start a company as part of the program. They get £5,000 pounds from the university as starting venture capital and most of the companies start by importing products from China or start projects that require less capital than the average startup.

Key takeaways

  • As a bachelor’s program, the average student is younger than many other studies, which changes the dynamics of the student environment. The students get closer and more frequent follow-up from the staff with the start-ups.
  • The University of Buckingham has a great hands-on, learning-by-doing program which forces the students to go out and develop a venture with guidance from staff and mentors.

Coventry University

For our last stop, we visited Kelly Smith and her colleagues at Coventry University. Here, the institution has both a bachelor and a master’s program in entrepreneurship.

The bachelor’s degree is a three-year course where students learn about the entrepreneurial mindset and how to develop a business. The students are not required to start a business, but they have the possibility for a “sandwich-year” where they can study abroad or build a new venture.

The master’s degree is an intensive program, where the students have limited time for extracurricular projects. The program lays the foundation needed for developing a new venture, which students have done after finishing the degree.

Key takeaways

  • Having both a bachelor and a master’s degree in entrepreneurship enables students to have a higher degree of flexibility in seeking education in entrepreneurship.
  • The students are advised to combine their studies in entrepreneurship with specialization within another field of study. (E.g. bachelor’s in computer engineering – master’s in entrepreneurship)