Thursday 05 May 2016


Social Enterprise in a Global Context: the role of Higher Education Institutions is the first major international study to examine how and why so many universities and other higher education institutions around the world are collaborating and engaging with social enterprises.

The study found that 75% of the institutions surveyed are actively involved with at least one social enterprise, and over half of these are also engaged in an international social enterprise partnership. Surprisingly perhaps, it discovered that only 2% of HEIs had not previously worked with a social enterprise. 

Launched at Going Global 2016, the world’s largest open conference for higher education leaders, the study covers over 200 higher education institutions (HEIs) across 12 countries spanning four continents.  

The engagement takes many forms, including: 

• providing placements for students in social enterprises;

• creating opportunities for students and faculty to develop their own social enterprises;

• offering accredited courses in social entrepreneurship;

• providing incubation spaces, dedicated support services, or research expertise to social enterprises; 

• and inviting social entrepreneurs to serve as student mentors. 

Universities are the anchors, shapers and innovators of our communities that help foster cultural, social and economic vitality. And today as never before, they are being called upon to contribute to positive social and economic change both nationally and internationally. 

The study, conducted by Plymouth University for the British Council, also found that engaging with social enterprise gives HEIs an opportunity to interact closely with local businesses and communities to create inclusive and financially sustainable solutions to pressing local and international issues. 

The study also found that such engagement allows HEIs to provide students with experiential learning opportunities and entrepreneurship skills that enhance their employability. Furthermore, it can support academic staff to develop enterprise solutions arising from their academic research and translate the latter into tangible social impact.  And it can generate reputational benefit and income for universities. 

 The engagement between HEIs and social enterprises also conforms with evolving social attitudes and career aspirations of young people. According to a survey of millennials conducted by Deloitte, 50% of young people want to work for a business with ethical practices and 60% choose their workplace based on its purpose. This research responds to the global growth in higher education and social enterprise. 

About the British Council


The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

We work in more than 100 countries and our 8,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes.

We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publicly-funded grant provides 20 per cent of our turnover which last year was £973 million. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, such as English classes and taking UK examinations, and also through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally.

 For more information, please visit