In the European context Finland has turned out to be an early adopter and reformer of entrepreneurship education, which has spread throughout the school system, from early childhood education to universities. As a part of this development Finnish higher education institutes strongly encourage both faculty and students to become more commercially oriented and re-orientate their strategies and policies towards academic entrepreneurship (AE). Thus, entrepreneurial activities do not only apply to ‘hard sciences’ but include researchers alongside teachers, students and administration as key actors of AE. Our paper is based on the ongoing research project ‘Academic entrepreneurship as a social process’ (ACE, 2016-2020, financed by the Academy of Finland, Eriksson et al., 2016) and a sub-study of this project with narrative ethnographic methods (Gubrium & Holstein, 2008). In the research project the starting point is that AE is a multifaceted phenomenon with a variety of motivations and goals. There is an urgent need to ask more broadly than before: how do universities, ‘academic tribes’ and individuals engage in AE, and what are the consequences of this engagement, and, what kind of entrepreneurship education universities wish to promote, and how this education is realized in daily social processes of education.
In the sub-study we approach entrepreneurship education from the perspectives of neoliberal governance and narrative social psychology. Based on our preliminary findings of our narrative ethnographic data, the focus of our analysis is on the start-up narratives, especially, as the technology of the self that stress the maximization of the self-steering capacities of academics as vital resources for achieving private profit, the higher education institutions’ and nations’ economic competitiveness and social progress. In this paper we approach start-up storytelling as a performance and as a vehicle for norm setting and culture creation, and explore what kind of future world of work, academy, and academic subjectivity the narrative(s) of start-up construct for university students.
Through analyzing the content and the form of start-up narratives embedded in our data, we reflect upon different functions of the storytelling in the context of entrepreneurship education. First, we will illuminate its’ legitimacy-building role and the creation of a normative and convincing entrepreneurship narrative. Second, we will reflect its function as a technology of the self through which academic entrepreneurial (ideal) subjectivities are constructed. And finally, we will analyze its role in the construction of entrepreneurship communities (e.g. the local “Entrepreneurship Society”).
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