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Female students 3 times more likely to pursue passion projects during university – Entrepreneurs Day


Women go-getters: Female students are three times more likely to pursue passion projects and side hustles at university than male students (@OpenUniversity)

The Open University survey reveals young students are inspired to pursue a side hustle or career that is inspired by the interests they love while undertaking a degree. Whether it’s money on their mind, a need-to-work and study ethic, or the desire to get ahead fast – the results highlight a goal-driven generation who want flexibility to juggle their student lives with their career ambitions.

The survey also uncovers women’s go-getter mentality as female students are three times more likely to pursue a passion project alongside their studies than male students. Women’s entrepreneurial ambition is only growing in strength highlighted by Sam, a recent OU graduate.

Sam built a sustainable textiles business and online shop, amidst studying for her Psychology degree. Her environmentally friendly crafting side-hustle evolved into an award-nominated business idea, one she formed in the midst of the pandemic. She grew her business after originally making masks and headscarves for her mum while undergoing chemotherapy. She then started selling her crafts online, then developed an offshoot idea to develop designs for a fabric shop and making recycled products to discourage waste.

Commenting on the opportunity to build a business while studying, Sam said:

“Making masks and headscarves for my mum was meant to be a side project during my studies. The flexibility of my degree allowed me to entertain the idea to grow the project into a real business venture – a sustainable textile business, Vellana. I’m selling a lot of beautiful cottons and putting a percentage of those profits towards subsidising a batch of UK handmade fabrics by people just like me, trying to get off the ground. The business is still in its early stages but I’m excited for what’s next in store now that I’vegraduated.”

Flexibility to work and study is especially important to young people. Stats show 56% of students considering university want to work on passion projects at the same time and 29% say their decision about which subject to study was led by their passion project.

The OU has a dedicated entrepreneurs hub and free resources on OpenLearn to help students thinking about becoming an entrepreneur as 84% of respondents want their future university to help them pursue their ambitions by providing expert learning advice. The Entrepreneurs hub includes tips and help to get started as well as ideas from students and graduates who’ve started up their own businesses and want to share their experience.

Dr Carolin Decker-Lange, Senior Lecturer in Management at the OU’s Business School, commented:

“Entrepreneurship encompasses more than setting up a venture, it includes skills ranging from problem solving to teamwork, taking initiative to communication and risk taking, which can be useful in diverse contexts, such as the workplace. In the Business School we support students in developing their entrepreneurial skills because “jobs for life” have become rare.

“But student entrepreneurship does not always continue after graduation. Enterprising graduates are attractive to many employers. They are more flexible when it comes to changes in economy and society than graduates who have not engaged with entrepreneurship.”

A recent report showed the OU produces more CEOs than any other UK university suggesting the Open University is the place for students with this hustle mentality.

The Open University comes third amongst 174 participating degree-awarding universities, a rise from 17th place in 2019 underlining the growing popularity for distance learning and the OU as the trusted place chosen by many to follow their ambition and study for a degree.

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