Legitimizing the entrepreneurship educator


  • Birgitte Wraae UCL University College
  • Andreas Walmsley Plymouth Marjon University




legitimacy, Entrepreneurship education, institutional environment, pragmatic, moral and cognitive legitimacy


The entrepreneurship educator plays a key role in entrepreneurship education (EE) with the responsibility to plan and execute its delivery.  Though scarce, research on the topic underlines how educators evolve and interact in an environment full of other actors (Foliard, Le Pontois, Fayolle, & Diermann, 2019) and deliver teaching entrepreneurship from a dialogical based ecosystem (Birgitte  Wraae & Walmsley, 2020). One of these many interactions is with the educational institution, whose role it is to brand themselves externally to potential stakeholders and students (Jones & Matlay, 2011)  This preliminary study uses as its theoretical foundation Legitimacy Theory, specifically Suchman’s  (1995) constructs of ‘pragmatic’, ‘moral’ and ‘cognitive’ legitimacy. Our aim is to understand how the institutional environment legitimises the entrepreneurship educator and by implication what this means for EE more generally. The study will thereby provide insights into what role the educator plays and the mechanisms by which legitimacy is granted.  Data were collected in 2022 on all undergraduate enterprise or entrepreneurship programmes (all programmes with either enterprise or entrepreneurship in their title) at undergraduate level in the UK. Access to programme information was provided via the central government-supported body UCAS. In total 73 programmes were identified and scrutinised for how the entrepreneurship educator was legitimised conforming to a form of discourse analysis.   More specifically, following Suchman (1995) our search was focused on any mention of the teaching staff and whether that mention contained a pragmatic, moral or cognitive legitimising element. The preliminary results are startling in the sense that only rarely is the entrepreneurship educator directly legitimised. With this, we mean the role they play in the delivery of EE is neither argued on the grounds of their prowess (pragmatic legitimacy), their benefits to wider society (social legitimacy) or even just by explaining what makes them distinct as educators (cognitive legitimacy). Rather than focussing on the educator directly, programme specifications indirectly provide some insights into what they expect from the educator, or what is valued in EE. These early results raise a number of important questions as to how the entrepreneurship educator is perceived, legitimised and possibly even taken for granted. Recommendations for future research and practice are offered.