Students’ entrepreneurial mindset and entrepreneurship education

By Karin Wigger, Assistant Professor, and Iselin Mauseth, PhD student

Entrepreneurial mindset is said to be the way entrepreneurs think and act

To possess the entrepreneurial mindset is portrayed to be key for everyone who acts entrepreneurially. In particular, having the entrepreneurial mindset enhances the ability to sense, act and mobilize, even under uncertain conditions (McGrath & MacMillan, 2000). This means that the entrepreneurial mindset makes an individual passionately seek new opportunities, pursue the best opportunities with enormous discipline, focus on execution and engaging their surroundings to increase the performance and entrepreneurial success. Therefore, the entrepreneurial mindset is regarded as an important assess crucial for economic development and social and environmental value creation.

However, the nature of the entrepreneurial mindset and how individuals instill this mindset is yet somewhat unclear. While some accuse that the entrepreneurial mindset is something that is just embedded in the DNA of entrepreneurs, others treat it as an asset that also can grow through education and training. Believing in the latter, entrepreneurship education is a way to support the development of the entrepreneurial mindset. Indeed, given that the entrepreneurial mindset is associated with entrepreneurial action resulting in value creation, educational efforts to instill the entrepreneurial mindset are steadily increasing.

What constitutes the entrepreneurial mindset and how we as entrepreneurship educators teach students in a way that makes them develop the entrepreneurial mindset is still far from understood. This made us at the Engage center wonder, have “entrepreneurial mindset” just become a buzzword or can students develop an entrepreneurial mindset through entrepreneurship education? To address this question, the Engage center conducts research that contribute to the ongoing debate about the development of students’ entrepreneurial mindset in the context of higher education. For example, research at the center aims to increase our knowledge of what the entrepreneurial mindset is, how (i.e., through which pedagogical interventions) the entrepreneurial mindset is developed and how we can measure the development of the entrepreneurial mindset. In the following we present the Entrepreneurial mindset review project, a concrete example of what Engage does to contribute to research on developing students’ entrepreneurial mindset.

Insight into the mindset review project

To deepen our understanding of how entrepreneurship education can influence the entrepreneurial mindset, we shifted focus towards what entrepreneurship education actually is shown to impact. We reviewed prior research on the assessment of entrepreneurship education and then we link these impacts to the concept of entrepreneurial mindset. In particular, we focus on the abilities that students develop throughout their entrepreneurship education. On the one hand, the aim of education is to learn students new abilities which shall help them to achieve the defined learning outcome of for example a course or a study program. On the other hand, it is said that having an entrepreneurial mindset inhering the ability to rapidly sense, act and mobilize under uncertain conditions (McGrath and MacMillan 2000). Therefore, compiling research results on students’ abilities development through entrepreneurship education and linked them to the concept of entrepreneurial mindset helps us to gain more understanding of developing entrepreneurial mindset.

A lot of effort is put on understanding how entrepreneurship education influence the students’ ability to sense, and particularly to abilities to find creative solutions and perceive and evaluate opportunities. Nearly all studies we analyzed detect a positive impact on the students’ ability to senses. When it comes to students’ ability to act, the effort is put down in understanding the impact of entrepreneurship education on the students’ ability to act upon a perceived opportunity and their ability to start a business. Yet, few attempts have been made to link entrepreneurship education to action beyond start-up activities. An entrepreneurial mindset is not bounded by the creation of new businesses, but include ability to act as intrapreneur (i.e., helping an existing company move forward) or create value. This indicates that the research is lagging behind when it comes to measures used to assess the students’ ability to act. We find several studies that evaluate whether entrepreneurship education influence students’ ability to mobilize. Where several studies assessed the impact students’ ability to communicate, build networks and collaborate with team members. In fact, did all these mobilize studies only report positive effects, like for the studies reporting effects on students’ abilities to act.

Our ongoing research show that entrepreneurship education can influence abilities that are associated with entrepreneurial action, which is seen as the outcome of having the entrepreneurial mindset. Even though the use of measures of students’ abilities to sense, act and mobilize are somewhat inconsistent, we are confident when we say that we now know that entrepreneurship education can infuse parts of students’ entrepreneurial mindset.  From our analysis we see that there are few studies that are measuring multiple entrepreneurial mindset abilities. This means that results are highly dependent on the specific indicators used in each study, which restricts our possibility to understand how the three key abilities are linked together. Moreover, we do acknowledge that entrepreneurship education can have an impact beyond developing students’ abilities, such as their intentions, self-efficacy or personal traits, and that these facets also can have an influence on the scope of students’ abilities. So, as the amount of entrepreneurship education around the world continues to grow, we still need more research-based knowledge to establish a coherent and practical understanding of the impact of entrepreneurship education and its role in developing students’ entrepreneurial mindset. Even more importantly, what constitutes the entrepreneurial mindset.


McGrath, R. G. and I. C. MacMillan (2000). The entrepreneurial mindset: Strategies for continuously creating opportunity in an age of uncertainty, Harvard Business Press.

McGrath, R. G. and I. C. MacMillan (2000). The entrepreneurial mindset: Strategies for continuously creating opportunity in an age of uncertainty, Harvard Business Press.