University Entrepreneurship Education in Argentina:
A decade of analysis
Sergio Postigo, Karel Steuer Chair in Entrepreneurship, Universidad de San Andrés
Fernanda Tamborini, Karel Steuer Chair in Entrepreneurship, Universidad de San Andrés
Vito Dumas 284, (1644) Victoria, Argentina
Phone: +54 11 4725-7057 / Fax: +54 11 4725-7010
Traditionally, the Argentinean educational system was not characterized to promote nor incentive the
necessary skills to develop entrepreneurs. The society was not educated with an entrepreneurial
attitude given that education and social aspiration were oriented to work mainly in large
corporations. In the last decade, this trend started to reverse showing changes in the university
education system. A sign is the increased interest in entrepreneurship within the educational system
and the society in general. Also there is a progressive increase of courses, chairs, incubators and
other activities oriented to promote the area of entrepreneurship. This phenomenon happens in both
public and private universities. Basically, there is an increase in academic supply and in the
transformation of the traditional role of the university as the generator of qualified labor that can
contribute to environmental changes.
This paper has the objective of being the first formal study to analyze the evolution of the university
entrepreneurship education in Argentina during the past decade. Also there are explanations of the
reasons and factor that contribute to the development and consolidation of this phenomenon.
The relationship between education and business creation has been studied by the international
literature from different perspectives and approaches (Clark et.al, 1984; Lafuente and Salas, 1989;
Robinson and Sexton, 1994; Upton et al, 1995; Kolvereid and Moen, 1997; Delmar and Davidsson,
2000; Charney and Libecap, 2000; Cowling and Taylor, 2001; Levie et.al, 2001; Lüthje and Franke,
2002). Likewise, many authors mentioned the extraordinary increase in the quantity and quality of
entrepreneurship programs in the last 25 years, as well as the foundation of research centers,
conferences and publications in this area responding to universities initiatives and the increasing
demand for this type of courses (Fayolle, 1998; Kolvereid y Moen, 1997; Vesper and Gartner, 1997).
The research in the area of entrepreneurship in Latin American countries is limited. In addition, there
is another barrier which is given by low level of systematic information (Kantis et al, 2002). This
issue is even more acute in the area of entrepreneurship education. However, it was found a study
concerning entrepreneurship education in Latin America in which Varela (1997) points out that there
are many different factors that explain its underdevelopment of the region. Among them, he stresses
that Latin American culture does not promote the entrepreneurial spirit or the entrepreneurial
attitudes. Meanwhile, given the difficult circumstances these countries have to face, he argues that
new ways of promoting social and economic development have to be found. He emphasizes the need
for significant changes in the education system in Latin America, aiming to produce a transformation
in culture and values necessary to stimulate entrepreneurial spirit.
But the academic programs of most universities of the region have a tendency to focus the education
of their students towards a professional career as employees, and rarely consider the opportunity of
developing competencies that will allow alumni to start their own projects.
The case of Argentina is not an exception. Argentine society does not promote nor value an
entrepreneurial career. The educational system does not generate skills or competencies for
entrepreneurs. Graduates lack of entrepreneurial attitude, given that the education they receive, as
well as social expectations, are oriented to working and being promoted within large corporations.
Nevertheless, throughout the last decade, this trend has begun to change. Several universities, both
public and private, started introducing entrepreneurship courses and business plan contests. It is
worth mentioning that the course offerings are not homogeneous in terms of the target, the
objectives, the depth and the professors’ background.
Like in other countries, in Latin America in general and Argentina in particular, it can be seen a
strong commitment in the development of entrepreneurial skills of the students and alumni (Ussman
and Postigo, 2000; Braidot, 2001; Postigo and Tamborini, 2002).
Therefore, studies that demonstrate the evolution of entrepreneurship education and analyze the
reasons that contribute for its evolution are relevant to understand the phenomenon and develop
action plans to promote its initiatives.
Entrepreneurship education started its development almost twenty-five years ago. During the last
decade appeared clear signs showing the importance of this young field of research.
With reference to the analysis of the evolution of the entrepreneurship education at the university
level, it is possible to find the background information in the first análisis made by Vesper (1974)
that demonstrate that entrepreneurship education was going to be one of the areas that will develop
relevant knowledge in years to come. In fact, the literature developed in the last decade increased in
quantity and quality. Several studies describe in details this phenomenon in different countries. After
a review and analysis of all these studies it is possible to distinguish at least four lines of research:
The first one is related to the impact that entrepreneurship education at the university level has
over the economy (Clark, Davis and Harnish, 1984; Price and Monroe, 1993; Charney and
Libecap, 2002; among others),
the second line of research focuses the analysis over the pedagogic instruments and
methodologies used to teach entrepreneurship (Carrol, 1993; Gartnet and Vesper; 1994; Mitchell
and Chesteen, 1995; Plaschka and Welsch, 1990; Sexton and Upton-Upton, 1987; Solomon,
Weaver and Fernald, 1994; Van Clouse, 1990; Laukannen, 2000; among others),
the third group compiles the research related to the state-of-the-art entrepreneurship education
(McMullan and Long, 1987; Gorman, Block and Stumpf, 1992; Hanlon and King, 1997; Vesper
and Gartner, 1997; among others), and,
finally, the fourth group reports practical experiences at different educational level (McMullan,
Long and Wilson, 1985; Zeithaml and Rice 1987; Vesper and McMullan, 1988; Robinson and
Hayes, 1991; Fleming, 1996; Williams and Turnbull, 1997; Levie, 1999; Obrecht, 1999; Louksm,
Menzies and Gasse, 2000; Mason, 2000; Solomon, Duffy, and Tarabishy, 2002; among others).
Given the characteristics of this research, the topics related to the last group is the one that coincides
the most to that of the theoretical framework. There is no background of similar research made in
Argentina. It is necessary to describe some definitions and concepts used in this study.
The concept of entrepreneurship courses used in this study was defined as a series of classes focus on
entrepreneurship, new venture management or starting a new business. That is, they concentrate on
new rather than existent business activity.
According to focal point of entrepreneurship education, we consider that entrepreneurship education
can be divided into two different areas, according to the distinction made by Laukannen (2000):
Education about entrepreneurship: Develops, constructs and studies the theories referred to
the entrepreneurs, the creation of firms, the contribution to economic development, the
entrepreneurial process and the small and middles size firms. It addresses both graduate and
undergraduate students, masters, PhDs, policy makers, and researchers. In other words,
everyone interested in entrepreneurship as a social phenomenon.
Education for entrepreneurship: This area addresses current and potential entrepreneurs.
The objective is to develop and stimulate the entrepreneurial process, providing all the
necessary tools for the start-up of a new venture both inside and outside existing
organizations. According to Mason’s (2000) definition, “it is proposed to develop the core
skills and attributes necessary to roll out a new venture and to identify pre-start-up needs”.
There is a fundamental difference between the above definitions. The first definition is based on the
construction and transfer of knowledge about the field, while the second one focuses on the learning
experience and the development of competencies, skills, aptitudes and values (Ussman and Postigo,
2000). Therefore, the teaching methods used in each of these areas are not the same.
Finally, to group and analyze the program types and contents of the courses given in the Argentinean
university system, it was used the typology of entrepreneurship development programs defined by
the Interman (1992).
DATA AND METHODS
For this research all of the approximately 70 academic units of the Argentinean university system
were analyzed. Only were selected the ones that have courses, programs, centers or academic units
focused on teaching entrepreneurship, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
A detailed questionnaire was developed specifically for this purpose. The instruments of data and
information collection were of two kinds: 1) Self-conducted surveys to program directors and 2) in-
depth interviews with key informants and the founders of each of the university unit.
The procedure used to determine the sample started with the detailed inventory of all the educational
institutions in the country. Afterwards there were identified those academic units that had an ongoing
program or an area of research in entrepreneurship. Finally, a personal contact was established with
each program responsible/director.
The variables collected included: a) information about the type of activities developed (i.e. courses,
seminars, business plan competitions, and so on), b) quantity of courses taught, c) mandatory status
and scope of course content, d) academic year they were taught, e) average size classes, f) type of
course (entrepreneurship orientation and awareness programs, new enterprise creation programs,
small business development, training for trainers and others), g) teaching methods used, h)
entrepreneurs participation, i) position within the institutional structure, and j) staff composition.
Interviewees were also questioned about the main obstacles to develop entrepreneurship education as
well as the factors that promote it.
Throughout the study it was confirmed that before 1996 the Argentinean universities did not have
academic units dedicated to teach and develop entrepreneurial skills. The result of this study clearly
marks 1996 as a key date for Argentina with the inclusion of topics of entrepreneurship in the
educational system. In this year, only 4% of the all universities had programs somehow related to
entrepreneurship. Nevertheless, at the beginning of 2003 that percentage had increased to 31% which
reflected an increase from 3 to 21 universities with initiatives in this area. This growth shows an
important change in the trend of the university educational system in Argentina and an increasing
interest of the academic community in the phenomenon of business creation.
The interesting point is that the beginning of these programs were not promoted by government
policies like other cases which include Canada and the United Kingdom. In Argentina a phenomenon
was born from a mix of cultural factors (marked by immigration roots and the high levels of
population alphabetization), socioeconomic factors (like the increasing number of entrepreneurs and
venture capitalists that arrived to the country) and finally, but one of the most important factors, the
interest of entrepreneurship academics.
Level of provision of entrepreneurship education
In this section is presented the report of the different types and course levels developed by all the
universities in Argentina (around 70 considering both public and private). It does not exist
postgraduate nor graduate degrees in entrepreneurship, therefore, the range from postgraduate
through undergraduate courses (class series, core courses, modules or electives), parts of courses
which focus mainly on other subjects, occasional seminars, to nothing at all.
Only 7% of the postgraduate programs developed by Argentinean universities have one course of
entrepreneurship in its program. All of the courses (100%) are focused on the development of a
21% of the universities have distinct courses (i.e. a series of classes such as a module, core
course or elective) in entrepreneurship. About 75% of these offered a course whose primary aim
was to prepare students for entrepreneurship, as opposed to teaching about entrepreneurs and
their role in economic development.
16% of the universities have entrepreneurship only within other courses that focused on other
6% of the universities have only occasional seminars in entrepreneurship for students. However,
29% of the universities reported occasional seminars in entrepreneurship. This tends to be seen as
a supplement rather than as a replacement for courses in the subject.
57% of the universities do not have any action plan in the area of entrepreneurship education.
Finally, of all the universities, only 9% have formal lines of research in the area of
Other activity related to the educational system are the annual contests that a little more than 35% of
the universities organize where almost 1000 participants develop and present business plans.
Geographic distribution of entrepreneurship education
The analysis of the geographical distribution of entrepreneurship education reveals that 85% of the
available courses are concentrated in the country’s capital and its principal province, Buenos Aires,
where resides almost a third of the total population of the country. However, many other cities in
countryside are making considerable efforts resulting in important achievements in this subject.
Undergraduate course - Characteristics
This is the segment that, compared to the graduate course, shows major growth and consolidation in
the area of entrepreneurship education. Almost 21% of the universities offer entrepreneurship
courses in the latest years of the career. It is interesting to point out that only one of those universities
has reliable experience in developing mandatory Entrepreneurship courses during the first years of
Like the experiences of other countries, the main providers of Entrepreneurship courses are the
universities with management and economics orientations followed by very few with engineering
orientation and only some isolated cases of universities that teach architecture, veterinary medicine
With regard to the quantity of students that attend the courses, the number is very uneven, it goes
from 80 students to 10 or less. Therefore, it is possible to establish that the average number of
students per course is around 35 for the undergraduate level and 25 for the graduate level.
In line with the teaching methodology in business administration and under the influence of Harvard
Business School, the education in Entrepreneurship was traditionally focused on the case study
(McIntyre and Roche, 1999). This trend continues in Argentina.
The main topic in all these courses is the development of a Business Plan (for 95% of the analyzed
cases). Subjects related to the general information about Entrepreneurship and its process is taught in
8% of the courses. 50% of the courses provide information related to small and medium companies.
Only 10% develop theoretical units around the origin and background of Entrepreneurship.
This general overview confirms some of the observations presented previously about the trend to
design programs focused in teaching “for entrepreneurship” instead of “about entrepreneurship”.
The profile and background of the professors of Entrepreneurship courses are characterized by a high
percentage of them with university education (95%), half of them with real life experience in
business creation and only 10% with specialized training in the area of Entrepreneurship. The
percentage of entrepreneurs, all at senior level, without academic background that participate in
courses is 5%. Of all the courses, 20% invite foreign professors to participate in the courses that are
given and their average participation is of around two weeks.
During this research there were seventeen different pedagogic methods used, as follows: reading,
lectures, guest speakers, testimonial videos, tutorship in companies, development of business plans,
simulaciones, case development, business visits, role play, work with entrepreneurs, thesis,
workshops, consulting work, research, entrepreneur associations and analysis of case studies. Of all
these it is interesting to point out that the one mostly used (in 93% of the cases) were the lectures, the
guest speakers, the work performed together with entrepreneurs and the development of business
plans. On the other hand, the least used methods were case development and testimonial videos.
It is important to emphasize that only 60% of the interviewees use reading material as a teaching
method in their courses and that almost 70% make the students develop a field case study. Finally,
only 24% registered visits to companies and 42% use case studies as a teaching tool.
As we mentioned above and according to international experience, the presence of the entrepreneur
in the classes is very relevant given that one of the main objective is to take “the experience to create
a company to the class”. Even though the participation in class is low, it is equally interesting to
know the different types of participation that the entrepreneurs have within the courses in the
Argentinean universities. Almost 30% of the entrepreneurs participate in the classes telling their
experiences to the students orally, 25% participate as part of a programmed activity previously
coordinated by the professor, in 22% of the cases the entrepreneurs act as counselors in business
projects together with the students and finally, in 23% of the cases they participate in the
development of local cases or as potential investment projects.
Information about the academic unit that develop the program
Out of all the universities interviewed it was not possible to observe a common denominator related
to the institutional independence of these academic units or programs. As it will be seen later, fund
raising activities to sustain the academic unit is one of the most pressing goal in all the programs
(only one academic unit receives financial support from an entrepreneur in the form of a donation).
The team leader is usually a professor with full time dedication to the project. To this it can be added
a team of professors (no more than two or three) and a team of assistant instructors (no more than
The network with the business community, entrepreneurs, alumni and organizations linked to
entrepreneurship is stronger in the academic units that demonstrate more academic production,
advanced pedagogic models or start up businesses that are successfully implemented by students. In
this group only are four universities out of the total sample.
Main obstacles and factors that determine the future development of entrepreneurship
education in Argentinean universities
Throughout this study, it is possible to observe an explosive growth in the area of entrepreneurship
and the process to include this subject in universities and curriculum in Argentina. There are
obstacles in Argentina for the development of entrepreneurship, among them five are clearly
important to describe, as follows:
1. Strong resistance of the formal educational system and the established academic programs
by authorities in the area of education. There are no governmental educational policies
that support the development of entrepreneurship education. This can be seen by the
simple fact that there is no formal study of the universities that teach entrepreneurship,
like the present one study. This leads to the conclusion that for the time being topics of
entrepreneurship are not in the working agenda of the policy makers in the area of
2. There is a clear dissociation between the interest of the academic authorities of the
universities and the students´ needs. The universities do not consider that “being
entrepreneur” as a legitimate career option. In all the cases the interviewees reported that
the student acceptance of Entrepreneurship courses was higher than the one perceived by
the authorities, even in those universities rated top in this subject.
3. A traditional culture of university teaching based on the development of professionals to
offer labor instead of demanding labor. Traditionally, the university system was focused
in developing “good and efficient employees” instead of prominent independent business
people without developing the specific subject of entrepreneurship. In conclusion, the
change will be more difficult if the development of entrepreneurial capacities is focused
only in one course instead of distributing the knowledge throughout all the courses of the
4. The lack of funding and mainly specialized professors in the area is other of the important
barriers at the time of including Entrepreneurship in the university academic offering. The
same phenomenon can be found in the American University system where the
departments that are opened each year generate a demand for specialized professors that
can not be met by the existing supply.
5. The limited match of the university supply to the needs of the labor market. The
unemployment is an international phenomenon, currently there is no company that has the
capacity to generate the absorption of the available labor like it had a decade ago. In this
context, to be an entrepreneur is a legitimate career alternative for the young professionals
and not noticing this need the universities continue to provide traditional programs.
In spite of the above mentioned barriers, it is important to rescue a group of factors that help and will
help the development of this area within the university context. Among the five most important
points revealed in this study are:
1. The incipient but permanent production of academic research in this area. For Latin
America this is a recent phenomenon but fortunately there is an increasing number of
researchers and academics interested in the evolution of Entrepreneurship at the regional
level. This generates the interest of international organizations that finance this type of
research and the results help generate a favorable environment to develop
Entrepreneurship in the educational field.
2. The strong partnership of institutions related to the area. During the current research, it
was very interesting to observe the high degree of partnership existing among all the
institutions related to entrepreneurship. Very close to the universities it is possible to see
foundations and business associations supporting the growth of this area. The academic
group is well known among themselves and their network contacts have many areas in
common where it can be seen actions focused in promoting Entrepreneurship education
even among competing universities.
3. The progress and impact that entrepreneurship has over the economies from an
international context increases the interest for research of this phenomenon and constitute
a fundamental factor at the moment of defining the research areas. Seeing that, the results
of these studies contribute to the process of developing this initiatives.
4. The increasing interest from the university students and the public in general about
business creation. This contributes to the development of programs specialized in
5. Finally, the rupture of the traditional labor system and the particular economic crisis of
the country focus us in new teaching methods that allow the generation of a great number
of companies with rapid growth and that can contribute to the development of a new
leadership model with entrepreneurs with a sense of social responsibility.
Like other research in the area (Fleming, 1996; Williams and Turnbull, 1997; Levie, 1999; Louksm
et al, 2000; Solomon et al, 2002; Obretch, 1999; Findle and Deeds, 2001) the results of this study
show a growing awareness and a favorable development of university education in entrepreneurship.
However, in the case of Argentina, there are other reasons that stimulated its beginning.
The results show a growing awareness in entrepreneurship education. Around 33% of the public
institutions and 25% of the privates ones are engaged in some kind of activity but still are
geographically concentrated. The major obstacles are the rigid curriculum, the programs funding and
the lack of professors with specialization in the field. The peculiar characteristic of this case is that
the emergence of entrepreneurship at university level does not answer to governmental policy. The
unemployment rate, the economic crisis and the changes in the labor market play a key role in this
There is no doubt about the potential progress and future development of this discipline at every
level in Argentina. However, there is a need to face issues as the institutional academic legitimacy,
the chairs funding, the training for specialists and the local case development applied to the teaching
environment. According to this, in Argentina and in Latin America is necessary more research to
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