Portrait photograph of: Henrietta Onwuegbuzie

Henrietta Onwuegbuzie

Country Of Origin: Nigeria

Degree: PhD in Management, 2014

Academic Director, Lagos Business School, Pan-Atlantic University

Lancaster was the friendliest of all the universities I applied to during my correspondences with different schools. I applied to three schools and during my correspondences, Lancaster was always the most affable. I eventually dropped one of the schools because their terms didn’t match my availability. However, I got an offer from the other two and I chose Lancaster over the other, because I wanted to study in a friendly atmosphere. It was only after I started my studies in October 2007 that I realised that Lancaster was top 1% for PhDs in the UK. It was great to know that I was in a top school that was also student-friendly!

My supervisors, Professor Mary Rose and Professor Ellie Hamilton, were very caring. I was a part-time student, so each time I came round, they had to find me some office space for me, which wasn’t always easy, and made sure I had access to the photocopiers and printers used in the Department, without having to depend on the library facilities. That was time saving and really appreciated.

I didn’t have much time to socialise on campus, as I was there mainly for my studies and then had to hurry back to work. However, I found people in Lancaster both friendly and pleasant during my visits. I would summarise my experience of Lancaster as one of great learning, very challenging, but overall, rewarding!

I currently lead sessions in Entrepreneurship on the Executive and MBA programmes at Lagos Business School, Pan-African University in Lagos, Nigeria. My PhD research at Lancaster provided an opportunity for me to research and find answers to questions such as why most mainstream start-ups fail and how higher success rate of start-ups can be achieved. I found the answer in the entrepreneurial learning process of indigenous entrepreneurs, who have a strong apprenticeship tradition, through which they transmit entrepreneurial and management skills to younger generations. This method, which entails learning by doing and watching, traditionally lasted a period of six years, after which the apprentice was fully equipped with knowledge and skills to start an independent venture. The apprentices who went through this process usually succeeded in their ventures.

Generally, apprenticeship started at a young age, such that by the time the apprentices were teenagers or young adults, they were already equipped with the skills with which they could fend for their families as grown adults. In this traditional system, unemployment was inexistent as apprenticeship was the way of life though which people prepared for the future. This system, which would have continued to evolve, was however truncated by colonialism, which introduced formal learning aimed at preparing students for paid employment. As a result, graduates from mainstream systems tend to be better prepared or “programmed” for jobs, rather than for entrepreneurship. It is therefore no wonder that a high percentage of those who venture into entrepreneurship fail.

My research therefore suggests that stronger apprenticeship content needs to be introduced into current mainstream learning, to better prepare individuals for successful entrepreneurship. Unemployment is currently a global problem and so schools need to re-orientate their focus to produce more “job creators”, rather than “job seekers” in order to solve the pressing unemployment problem. I’m hoping I can get this message across strongly enough to see this much needed change take place in formal learning systems. That would be a most welcome practical impact of my studies in Lancaster!