This report on Entrepreneurship Education in Canada was primarily authored by Tihana Mirkovic. Higher education institutions have always played a major role in discussions on R&D and knowledge creation activities that are thought to contribute to a country’s competitive advantage on a global scale. While scientific entrepreneurship and related technology transfer have been practiced on campus in Canada and elsewhere for decades, the extent to which on-campus entrepreneurship and the “entrepreneurial spirit” have been emphasized among students has increased dramatically in the last decade. In response, the interest in the field of entrepreneurship education has also undergone a rapid expansion, with a proliferation of programs and activities. But how far has the implementation of programs come?

Optimization of the educational framework aimed at harvesting the best talent and realizing the country’s innovation potential strongly depends on understanding the landscape of the educational opportunities in entrepreneurship and innovation at Canada’s top universities. Plenty of studies have proven that education certainly plays an essential role in forming attitudes, skills, and most importantly an entrepreneurial mindset (Küttim et al., 2014; Wilson, 2008). But what is the strategy behind the current academic structure aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation education across specific fields? Which students are exposed to entrepreneurship education at the undergraduate level? Which departments or faculties tend to provide entrepreneurship programs, or teach courses on topics of innovation? From which perspectives is entrepreneurship and innovation education delivered to students? Is there a systematic framework under which curricula and programs devoted to entrepreneurship and innovation education are developed?

To answer some of these questions, we analyzed the present state of entrepreneurship and innovation education in Canada. Overall, our work identified 40 programs and 281 courses at 21 Canadian universities at the undergraduate level, with the results illustrated in Exhibit 1. This work builds on the findings presented in the first part of this investigation in which we analyzed the educational and demographic portraits of 585 founders of Canada’s fastest growing tech startups (refer to our report entitled Tech Founder Education, released in March 2019). This link helped us examine if indeed the students that are accessing entrepreneurship education are also the same students that start successful tech companies.

Our findings at a glance

Our findings indicate that entrepreneurship and innovation education is predominantly offered to business students and presented through the lens of the business faculty. Taking into account the number of students across different faculties, as well as the educational background of successful tech founders, it is evident that the delivery of entrepreneurship and innovation education within universities is skewed toward business disciplines, leaving science students with limited educational opportunities, despite their eventual success as tech entrepreneurs.

  • Of the 40 programs identified: 15 are minors; 15 are concentrations; 5 are majors; and 5 are delivered as certificates.
  • The majority of the programs are taught by business faculty to business students (15 programs), or engineering faculty to engineering students (11 programs).
  • Out of the 281 entrepreneurship and innovation courses offered, 50.9% are taught by business faculty.
  • 43.8% of courses are either electives, or electives with pre-requisites.
  • Course offerings by science departments are typically limited to students only from those departments, rather than the whole science student population.
  • The ratio of the number of entrepreneurship and innovation courses taught by a faculty vs. the number of students in that faculty, highlights that business students have 3.3 times more opportunity than engineers, 7.6 times more than humanities and social science students, and 8.5 times more than science students to be introduced to entrepreneurship in their specialization.
  • Our previous findings on the undergraduate education of tech founders were used to determine the index of the number of courses offered by faculty/department vs. the number of tech founders specialized in that field. The results indicate that that index for business majors is 3 times higher than for humanities and social science, 6.7 times higher than for science majors, and 7.9 times higher than for engineers.

Read the full report on Entrepreneurship Education in Canada.