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HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018. The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

Many of HEFCE's functions will be continued by the Office for Students, the new regulator of higher education in England, and Research England, the new council within UK Research and Innovation.

The HEFCE domain - - will continue to function until September 2018. At this point we will close the site entirely and all its information will only be available from the National Web Archive.


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For policy queries contact Ed Hughes, 0117 931 7265, or Rachel Samuels, 0117 931 7136,

Social entrepreneurs are individuals who set up ventures to:

  • address social issues
  • create positive change
  • reinvest some profit from those ventures for social good.

Universities can support social enterprise to bring about positive social change in their communities.

HEFCE’s support for social enterprise

In 2017, HEFCE commissioned Flourish CIC to undertake an evaluation of support for social entrepreneurs in the HE sector.

The evaluation was intended to answer the question ‘To what extent has the higher education sector the capacity to support social entrepreneurs?’. The report considered the following factors to understand where higher education institutions are best placed to operate and add value in support of social enterprises, innovators and leaders alongside the wider social enterprise and innovation support sectors:

  • assets and resources
  • kKnowledge and skills
  • range of support on offer and how this is received by beneficiaries and stakeholders within and beyond higher education institutions
  • future needs, opportunities and routes to sustaining momentum and support beyond the lifetime of the initial pump-priming phase.

The evaluation report, including an annex of detailed findings, is available on the HEFCE website.

HEFCE has invested over £5 million since 2009 to build capacity and share expertise in social enterprise support. We have delivered the following programmes to encourage social entrepreneurship in the higher education sector:

Creating a sustainable ecosystem of social enterprise support

This programme focused on developing  an 'ecosystem' of support within the sector. It concentrated on the longer term sustainability of social entrepreneurship work in the HE sector. 

Read a summary of some of the projects supported through this programme

Read an overview of HEFCE’s work in supporting social enterprise

Download the B1594 Social entrepreneurship in HEIs as PDF (751 KB)

See UnLtd’s reports on its work supporting social enterprise in higher education

Social entrepreneurs' in education (SEE) change programme

This programme enabled 56 HEIs to award a range of funding and support to approximately 800 staff and student social entrepreneurs. Read case studies from this programme.

HEFCE invested £2 million to support an awards programme tailored to each institution, as well as providing them with an opportunity to develop an environment to support the programme with a range of systems, tools, methods and processes.

Unlocking the potential of social entrepreneurship in higher education

This programme focussed on raising awareness of social entrepreneurship in higher education institutions.

The programme demonstrated that:

  • the higher education sector is well placed to equip students, graduates and staff with entrepreneurial skills
  • social enterprise allows students to gain employability skills
  • social enterprise enables staff to demonstrate the impact of their teaching and research.

Read the report on the findings of the programme

Working with partners to support social enterprise in HE

HEFCE is working with a number of third sector partners to promote social enterprise and social innovation.

Social Enterprise Mark

The Social Enterprise Mark is the only internationally available social enterprise accreditation.

We work with Social Enterprise Mark to raise awareness of how higher education institutions can operate as social enterprises, putting sustainable and ethical business practices at the heart of their strategic direction. We worked with Social Enterprise Mark to create films and animations to promote social enterprise.

Watch a short film promoting the Social Enterprise Mark in higher education

UnLtd's social entrepreneurs' exchange (SEE) Change platform

We support UnLtd’s SEE Change platform for peer to peer learning amongst social enterprise practitioners in HEIs and an annual programme of recognition awards to showcase the contribution of HE based social entrepreneurs and those who support them.

Guidance for social entrepreneurs

This toolkit is designed to help social entrepreneurs develop their businesses. It was created with UnLtd.

Read the social entrepreneurship toolkit

Sector impact assessment

We have assessed the impact of the Social Entrepreneurship Awards on the HE sector in terms of regulatory burden, equality and diversity, and sustainable development.

Further information

Read more about UnLtd’s support for social entrepreneurship in higher education

Page last updated 25 August 2017