Roger Cowdrey - International Business Consultant. Writer & Motivational Speaker
My Blog

The academia/real world gap!

Only this week I had two experiences that continued to reinforce in me the belief that academia continues to create ivory towers away from the real world.

The first of these experiences was the realisation of an ambition to give a TEDx Talk. It took place in an international university and was an incredibly rewarding time. I got to work with some amazing students from as many as 20 different countries and we got to reach 5000 people on the live feed as well as the members of the audience.

Not only was my talk well received, it also created a host of new and inspired friends who would like me to return next year. Without being arrogant, this sort of reaction has followed me whenever I have spoken in universities in various countries.

This work of inspiring young people is only part of my work, alongside my work as a business consultant and writer, but I regard it as a very important part and one that has developed through many years of experience. It is also something that is so important to me that I provide this service for free.

Therefore, when an organisation called Sparks emailed me recently looking for visiting professors for a summer school in Kosovo on Entrepreneurship then I decided to read further.

The course was for two weeks and the services would be offered pro bono with just travel, food and modest accommodation provided. Flush with my success at TEDx I envisaged two whole weeks inspiring young people to rediscover their creativity.

However, several pages down the details document I was brought up short. The criteria for selection were listed which included a relevant PhD, three years teaching the subject in a university and a letter from the head of department. 

Nowhere did it mention my 18 years working with thousands of real entrepreneurs, my years developing support centres and trained staff for entrepreneurs in at least five different countries nor my books and writings on entrepreneurship.

Clearly I am disappointed that the opportunity to work in Kosovo this summer has been ripped away, but I am far more disappointed for the young people that will be subject to a course where the concept of entrepreneurship was removed in even the selection process. Rather than take an entrepreneurial risk with people with real experience, this organisation prefers to opt for more of the same academic theory.

But then I should not be surprised at this attitude after so many years in this arena. I wish I had money for all of the times that I was asked, not whether I had experience of my subject but, whether I had a PhD. (I thought this stood for Permanent Head Damage!)

But in the true spirit of entrepreneurship I will continue to keep knocking on their doors with the certain knowledge that if I can get past the portcullis of academic intransigence then I can continue to inspire the students. Hopefully, one day, the academics will realise that joining with the outside world can only strengthen them rather than threaten them.

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