Which University Departments will Evolve to Incorporate Entrepreneurship?

Over the weekend, I spent some time thinking about this tweet:

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 7.53.23 AM

Last week, I wrote about limiting factors to charter start-ups.

In the comments, Isaac argued that we’ll never get to scale unless universities play a bigger role in education entrepreneurship.

I responded with some skepticism, saying that most university departments aren’t good at fostering this kind of work, and that education departments were probably near the bottom.


Danielle Fong seems to believe that the university model may be changing to include more investing and entrepreneurship.

In certain fields, such as computers and biomedical, this is already partly the case, though I’ve heard that IP issues and cultural norms often get in the way.

But, presumably, there is enough money and prestige at stake to incentivize these universities (and their respective departments) to figure it out.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure that this is the case with education departments.


That being said, Rick Hess recently had a piece arguing that education departments could be reformed via four strategies: (1) launching campus organizations where junior faculty and grad students can partner to alter the future direction of the school (2) endow faculty chairs and programs in innovative substantive areas (3) create new centers outside of existing graduate programs (4) create new graduate programs.


In the spirit of hope, here’s some potential ideas:

1. Create a center for charter school development that is a co-creation of an education school and a business school. I’d locate it somewhere in the midwest, which has a large amount of charter schools but has struggled with quality. The center’s funding would be contingent on launching three successful charter schools a year. After five years, if the schools weren’t performing, the center would close.

2. Endow a “new school development” chair at a prestigious education school. The requirements for the chair would be: you have to serve a three year appointment; you’ve had to previously been on the management team or board of directors at high-performing CMO; you have to teach one class on the mechanics of launching and scaling charter networks; the funding for the chair is contingent university graduates launching one CMO every year.

3. Create a center for charter school research and design. The center would have a twofold mission: first, if would seek to study existing charter schools to determine which models were most effective; second, it would have an innovation arm that worked on new school design.

4. Go to a university without an education school and create one that is solely focused on educational entrepreneurship: researching it, participating in it, etc. Ideally, narrowing its mission to this core area would keep the department away from much of the low impact research that education schools currently spent time on.


In a world of limited philanthropy, I’m not sure this is where I’d spend my money. But, if I were going to invest in education schools, I might play around with these ideas.

That being said, I have no ideas if these ideas would work. I don’t have a lot of expertise in how to create great university based programs.

Unfortunately, at many education schools, the current bar is so low that it would be difficult to do any worse.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.