OPINION: Kadeza Begum, enterprise engagement officer at UEL, clears up some stereotypes about students

PUBLISHED: 08:45 10 May 2017


There are a number of popular stereotypes about university students.

One is of the lazy hedonistic student who parties all night and sleeps all day, spending their student loan at the student union bar. Another is of the idealistic student activist, running from one protest march to another, but never engaging in the practicalities of the “real world”.

But as someone who works with students on a daily basis, neither of these stereotypes are familiar to me. As the enterprise engagement officer at the University of East London (UEL) working with student entrepreneurs, there is another, more and inspiring side that I’m privileged to see on a daily basis.

Twelve years ago UEL introduced an annual Dragons’ Den-style competition, E-Factor, which has given more than 200 students the opportunity to turn their business proposals into a reality.

These students are hard-working, creative, and business-minded. They’re also socially aware and want to do something about it.

Newham is an area with its own challenges, spurring three E-Factor finalists to address social issues, from sports schemes for young aspiring athletes, to easing the pressure on local health care providers, and a new approach to housing ex-offenders and those who are socially excluded.

They’re a far cry from the image of the perpetually-protesting student with an inflated sense of entitlement.

In 1997 the east London economy took an important step forward when UEL’s Knowledge Dock and Business Innovation Centre received its official opening by Queen Elizabeth II. Since then, it has provided premises and other support for more than 1,000 new businesses right here in east London.

Thanks to new business developments and entrepreneurial students like these, Newham’s future is looking bright.

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