Student Entrepreneurship Support at South African Public Universities: An Ecosystem Perspective




student entrepreneurship support, ecosystems, university-based entrepreneurial ecosystems


Purpose: It is widely agreed that student entrepreneurship can play a vital role in changing the economic landscape of developing countries. However, the effectiveness of university-based student entrepreneurship support (SES) has been questioned. Our study aimed to gain greater insights into SES in a developing country context by taking an ecosystem perspective on SES offered at South African public universities.

Methodology: A multiple case study strategy was adopted, and data was collected through online semi-structured interviews. Fourteen key informants, holding various positions at eight South African universities, were carefully selected to participate in the study.

Findings: Several types of SES are commonly aimed at developing entrepreneurs, promoting entrepreneurship as a career, and establishing job-creating businesses. To increase the effectiveness of this support, creative spaces, business advice from experts, top management buy-in and funding were regarded as very essential to enhance the interaction and collaboration between different elements in the ecosystem.

Practical implications: As creating a conducive environment for student entrepreneurs cannot occur in isolation, universities’ top management buy-in and financial backing are recommended to establish and offer a broad range of support internally and through external collaborations.

Originality/value: This study contributes to the limited research on SES and responds to several calls to research elements within university-based entrepreneurial ecosystems in a developing country context.


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Author Biographies

Riyaad Ismail, Nelson Mandela University

Department of Business Management, Nelson Mandela University, Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), South Africa

Shelley Farrington, Nelson Mandela University

Department of Business Management, Nelson Mandela University, Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), South Africa

Alex Bignotti, University of Pretoria

Department of Business Management, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Jacob Vermeire, Ghent University

Department of Marketing, Innovation and Organisation, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

Mirjam Knockaert, Ghent University

Department of Marketing, Innovation and Organisation, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

Saskia Crucke, Ghent University

Department of Marketing, Innovation and Organisation, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium


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How to Cite

Ismail, Riyaad, Shelley Farrington, Alex Bignotti, Jacob Vermeire, Mirjam Knockaert, and Saskia Crucke. “Student Entrepreneurship Support at South African Public Universities: An Ecosystem Perspective”. Southern African Business Review, 24 pages.



Received 2023-11-13
Accepted 2024-03-25
Published 2024-06-05