Spotlight On … Anna Howard

London South Bank University (LSBU) is an IOEE Centre of Excellence, and their staff and students are doing exceptional work in the field of enterprise in education. We’re running a series of case studies to let you know about LSBU’s projects and people, and this month we met Anna Howard, LSBU’s Associate Professor of Enterprise and Education, who is committed to creating opportunities for students from all disciplines to learn invaluable business skills that will prepare them for the working world.

At LSBU, enterprise in education is not exclusively for business-related courses, but is now an integral part of all degree programmes. The School of Business recently rewrote its undergraduate curriculum to integrate the teaching of entrepreneurial skills into all first year disciplines, and the university is gaining recognition for its pioneering approach to enterprise. LSBU won the Times Higher Award for Entrepreneurial University of the Year, with judges recognising the breadth of enterprising activity and depth of employer engagement, as well as LSBU’s pivotal role in both the community and academic endeavours. Anna says:

“There’s a renaissance of entrepreneurship in education happening at the moment. The way we work has shifted and you no longer just start a job after university and work your way up the ladder for 25 years. People are much more likely to have a ‘portfolio career’. Employers are looking for a lot more from graduates, and you’re required to wear a lot of different hats, so we need to develop these business skills alongside academic skills. It’s our job to ensure students are equipped for graduation and real-world opportunities.”

Anna has had a ‘portfolio career’ of sorts herself. She graduated from LSBU with a First Class Honours degree in Accounting and Finance in 2007, and went on to complete the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants qualification (ACCA) in 2009. She worked for a fashion designer and in private practice before being contacted by one of her university lecturers, asking if she would like to teach one night a week. She found teaching students so rewarding that it led her to her role today.

“I love teaching. Last year I ran a financial accounting module and over 350 students enrolled. I get a great deal of satisfaction from watching students grow and develop, and knowing that LSBU is helping to set them up for the rest of their lives.”

There are a lot of different ways for LSBU’s students to learn these entrepreneurial skills:

“The Student Enterprise team is fantastic. They have a number of off-the-shelf classes that are available to anyone on any course. These classes could be looking at innovation, creativity, negotiation, presentation, new business ideas – and they can be picked up and put anywhere.”

“We also have a tenant community, so there are 70 small businesses embedded within LSBU. Some of these are student businesses, but most are independent companies that rent office space and buy into our give-back culture. This means that they’ll be involved with the students’ education in various ways, giving students the chance to benefit from first-hand knowledge and experience.”

LSBU runs several start-up and business accelerator programmes for students and graduates who want to road-test a new business idea, or get support in developing an existing one.

Its Spark programme allows students to test the viability of a potential product or service through workshops and mentoring, as well as giving them office space and access to networks and legal support. Anna says:

“We’re looking at ways that the Spark programme can be integrated into the curriculum. To meet the criteria it needs to be available on all undergraduate courses. At the moment, it’s more appropriate for some courses than others, but we’re working towards making this possible soon.”

The Graduate Entrepreneur Scheme (GES) is an esteemed 12-month programme open to LSBU graduates who are in the early stages of running their own business and are ready to grow:

“The GES is open to anyone who has graduated from LSBU in the last five years, but it is incredibly competitive. We’ve supported 23 graduates over the last three years, and watched them take their businesses to the next level.”

Last month, LSBU’s Business School students took part in the finals of the prestigious annual NIBS (Network of International Business Schools) Worldwide Case Competition, which was held in Finland this year, and took home a bronze medal:

“This competition is great for showcasing creativity and enterprise skills. It gets the students to work in a truly interdisciplinary fashion, to think both strategically and operationally, to appreciate business culture, mitigate risk and evaluate complex financial data. In short, they need to have entrepreneurial flair. Winning bronze is an outstanding achievement.”

As the links between the IOEE and LSBU continue to strengthen, Anna reflects on why this connection is so important:

“Being an IOEE Centre of Excellence gives us that benchmark – that what we’re doing and how we’re doing it is significant – but this is just the beginning. The IOEE’s connection and support is invaluable, and will enable us to grow and develop even further. There are lots of ‘big’ things you can do in life more than once, but few people are fortunate enough to have more than one opportunity to go to university. It’s our responsibility to make university a life-changing experience for our students, and set them up for a successful future.”