Dissertation: Dreams of entrepreneurship during student years do not die even after decades

Sanna Joensuu-Salo
High entrepreneurial intentions during higher education remain alive also in the working life. Entrepreneurial intentions during studentship also lead to setting up a business after graduation.

This emerges in Sanna Joensuu-Salo's doctoral dissertation in the field of management in which the development of students' entrepreneurial intentions was followed at the individual level right from the start of the studies until after graduation.

– Entrepreneurship would seem to lie deep in a person's identity – even if an individual ends up in paid employment, the dream of entrepreneurship remains. Such longitudinal studies where the same persons are followed for nearly ten years are really rare in the field of entrepreneurship study, says Joensuu-Salo.

With longitudinal follow-up, it is possible to study the factors that impact a person becoming an entrepreneur and the development of entrepreneurial intentions in the long term. In Joensuu-Salo's doctoral dissertation, the development of entrepreneurial intentions and the factors impacting them are studied, as well as the impact of gender in this process, the factors that influence the decision to become an entrepreneur, and the significance of entrepreneurship education when it comes to students in universities of applied sciences.

– Promoting entrepreneurship is a very important matter socially, says Joensuu-Salo.

– Entrepreneurship creates new jobs and general well-being. Students build their own professional identity during higher education studies, and therefore it is very important for higher education institutions to support students with intentions of becoming entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurship education offered as a part of higher education is significant

According to the study, entrepreneurial intentions are mostly explained by attitudes toward entrepreneurship, as well as a person's belief in his or her own capability to succeed as an entrepreneur. Both of these can be supported during higher education studies.

According to the study, entrepreneurship education during studentship has an impact even after years. Entrepreneurship courses act as a kind of "preservation substance". Students that participated in entrepreneurship courses during their studies held on to entrepreneurial intentions even in their working lives.

– This is significant, because as a rule, entrepreneurial intentions decrease during higher education. At the graduation stage, intentions stabilize and remain almost at the same level in working life. For this reason, higher education studies are a particularly important period from the perspective of promoting entrepreneurship, Joensuu-Salo emphasises.

– The pedagogy of entrepreneurship courses must, however, be such that the courses demand a proactive approach and trials from the student, purely lecture-based courses do not have the same effect.

Gender and role models explain why a person becomes an entrepreneur

In addition to entrepreneurial intentions, a person becoming an entrepreneur is explained by role models in entrepreneurship, such as having entrepreneur parents, and gender. Men are still more likely to become entrepreneurs than women. Women's entrepreneurial intentions are at a lower level than men's at the start of the studies, and they also decrease more than men's during the studies.

For some reason, higher education studies do not encourage women to become entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship education works in a somewhat different way for men and women. For men, it has a positive impact on attitudes and for women, on their belief in their own competence in being entrepreneurs.

Indeed, Joensuu-Salo calls for higher education institutions to invest even more in the development of entrepreneurship education and in student-specific customisation.

– It is important for higher education institutions to identify the students with high entrepreneurial intentions. They are likely to be future entrepreneurs, and the higher education institute can support this entrepreneurship process already during the studies, says Joensuu-Salo.

Public defence

PhD Sanna Joensuu-Salo's doctoral dissertation in the field of management " Entrepreneurial intention, behavior and entrepreneurship education. A longitudinal approach." will be examined on Tuesday, 17 November 2020 at 12 pm. The event will be organised as an online event. The opponent will be Professor Vesa Puhakka (University of Oulu) and the custos will be Professor Jukka Vesalainen.


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Joensuu-Salo, Sanna (2020). Entrepreneurial intention, behavior and entrepreneurship education. A longitudinal approach. Acta Wasaensia 450. Doctoral dissertation. University of Vaasa. University of Vaasa.

Publication in pdf: https://osuva.uwasa.fi/handle/10024/11396

Further information

Sanna Joensuu-Salo, email: sanna.joensuu-salo@seamk.fi, tel. +358 40 868 0144

Sanna Joensuu-Salo was born in Alajärvi in 1977. She graduated from Alajärvi Upper Secondary School in 1996. Joensuu-Salo has received her doctorate in philosophy from the University of Jyväskylä in 2006. She works as Principal Lecturer at Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences. Joensuu-Salo lives in Alajärvi.

Photo by Valtteri Salo

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