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For the purposes of this work, 'social entrepreneurs' are individuals who set up ventures which address social issues, create positive change, or reinvest some profit from those ventures for social good.

Embedding a Culture of Social Entrepreneurship in Higher Education – UnLtd HE Support.

About the programme

We continue to work with the social-enterprise charity UnLtd to create a culture of social entrepreneurship across the higher education sector. This follows on from our successful pilot project in 2009 and the HE Support Programme which was launched in 2012 with UnLtd.

We have developed a further programme of work with UnLtd which we are supporting with a £2 million investment from the Higher Education Innovation Fund.  This programme will strengthen and broaden support for social entrepreneurship and social enterprise in universities, and higher education colleges across England.

The programme, is part of the ‘UnLtd SEE Change, Social Entrepreneurship in Education’ initiative. This will encourage higher education institutions to act as ‘hubs’ to support social entrepreneurs beyond their staff and students, and take the lead in supporting social inclusion and economic development in their communities.

UnLtd will work with the selected HEIs over an 18 month period to develop their support structures and networks that will include potential members such as other universities, further education colleges, along with public and private sector organisations and the social enterprise sectors.

Unlocking the potential of social entrepreneurship in Higher Education

From 2009 and 2011, HEFCE and UnLtd worked together on a pilot phase of work.

A report on the findings from this programme is available. The report documents the impact of the £1million investment and the 200 new social ventures created in 70 HEIs in England to catalyse the support for social entrepreneurship in HE.

Social entrepreneurship toolkit

Working with UnLtd, we have developed a toolkit that is designed to help social entrepreneurs. This offers a comprehensive guide to developing a social enterprise business.

The toolkit will help entrepreneurs work from an initial idea, through setup and piloting and, ultimately on to longer-term sustainability, growth and replication where appropriate.

It aims to provide practical guidance and working models or frameworks that will help in planning and implementing projects. It also contains some discussion of HEI-specific issues that are worth considering.


We already support the enterprise agenda through the work HEIs do with business and the wider community. It is also an important element of the activities funded through the Higher Education Innovation Fund.

We previously provided information on good practice and development in this area through, for example, the Science Enterprise Challenge.

Sector impact assessment

In developing the Social Entrepreneurship Awards, we have undertaken a formal assessment of their impact on the HE sector in terms of regulatory burden, equality and diversity, and sustainable development.

Sector impact assessment of the Social Entrepreneurship Awards

Download the Sector impact assessment of the Social Entrepreneurship Awards as PDF (46 KB) | Download the Sector impact assessment of the Social Entrepreneurship Awards as MS Word (102 KB)

Further information

The Social Entrepreneurship Awards web-site provides information about eligibility and the application process.

For policy queries contact Ed Hughes, tel 0117 931 7265, e-mail or Rachel Samuels, tel 0117 931 7136, e-mail

Page last updated 19 December 2014