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Tallinn University's innovative course brings together scientific and entrepreneurial thinking

From February to March 2024, Tallinn University held a pilot course titled "Entrepreneurial Mindset for Junior Researchers." The course aimed to introduce PhD students to an entrepreneurial mindset and demonstrate how it is equally relevant to the life of a researcher and other professions.

The course was developed as part of the C-Accelerate project, and due to its thorough approach and positive results, it will continue in the future.

According to Aija Sakova, Manager of Business Cooperation and Knowledge Transfer, entrepreneurial skills and mindset are important in today's academic world. “With this in mind, we developed a course designed for PhD students of all disciplines, bringing together scientific and entrepreneurial thinking.” The course was developed and delivered by Tanya Escudero, a Research Fellow at the School of Humanities and Senior Adviser of Doctoral Studies at the Research Administration Office, and Ulrike Rohn, a Professor of Media Management and Media Economics. The course equip junior researchers with the skills necessary to thrive both within and beyond academia.

Course structure and content

The course was structured into six two-hour sessions, each designed to build on the previous one. The sessions covered a range of topics for developing an entrepreneurial mindset: Theoretical Foundations to introduce the key entrepreneurial concepts and their application in research; Discovering the Entrepreneurial Self – a number of self-reflection exercises to identify personal strengths, weaknesses, and skills; Domain Expertise for mapping domain knowledge and linking it to entrepreneurial competencies; Building Your Network for better understanding the roles of collaborators, mentors, and stakeholders in a researcher's network; Impact on Society to learn about strategies to integrate societal factors into research projects for greater impact; and Presentation and Wrap-up to refine and present project ideas, with a focus on reflecting on the course learnings.

A standout feature of the course was its interactive and reflective approach. Students were encouraged to keep a self-reflective journal, responding to weekly prompts related to the session topics. This practice not only deepened their understanding but also facilitated continuous personal and professional growth.

A successful pilot and future plans

The feedback from participants was positive stating that the course met its objectives effectively. "We designed this course to help PhD students see the entrepreneurial potential in their research," Escudero explained. "The positive feedback confirms that we are on the right track." Students appreciated the balance between theoretical and practical activities, the emphasis on self-reflection, and the opportunities to apply entrepreneurial concepts to their research projects. The interdisciplinary composition of the course also enriched discussions, offering broader perspectives on entrepreneurial thinking. Rohn echoed these sentiments, stating, "The interdisciplinary approach allowed students to gain insights from various fields, enhancing their entrepreneurial thinking."

The success of this pilot course has paved the way for its integration into the PhD curriculum at Tallinn University. From September 2024, the university will include a centrally delivered module on transferable skills across all schools and disciplines. This module will offer short practical courses and workshops, with the "Entrepreneurial Mindset for Junior Researchers" set as a key component. As the course evolves based on student feedback, it promises to remain an invaluable asset in the university's commitment to fostering innovative and versatile researchers. By nurturing entrepreneurial skills, the university is not only enhancing the career prospects of its PhD students but also contributing to a more dynamic and entrepreneurial academic community.

About the instructors

Tanya Escudero is a Research Fellow at the School of Humanities (TÜHI) at Tallinn University. She has a wealth of experience in communication with migrants and linguistic minorities. She has curated and delivered numerous trainings at Tallinn University, focusing on practical and transferable skills for PhD students. Since the fall of 2023, she has also been working as a Senior Adviser for Doctoral Studies Development in the Research Department.

Ulrike Rohn is a Professor of Media Management and Media Economics at the Baltic Film, Media, and Arts School (BFM) at Tallinn University. She also co-leads the Tallinn University Centre of Excellence in Media Innovation and Digital Culture (MEDIT). She brings extensive media management and entrepreneurship expertise, contributing significantly to the course's success.


C-Accelerate – "Accelerating the role of Creative Communities through the Exploration of Entrepreneurial Education and Radical creativity within European Education" - is a project that unites five different universities (FilmEU universities among them) and other partners in order to increase the innovation and entrepreneurship capacity of the higher education institutions in creative fields. C-Accelerate project is led by Aalto University and coordinated by Aija Sakova at Tallinn University.

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