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Henry Jinman explaining The Sandpit to students

Universities jump in the Sandpit

Higher education is turning to virtual crowdfunding in a bid to boost entrepreneurship and employability

Posted by Hannah Oakman | June 13, 2016 | Finance, legal, HR

Universities across the UK are increasingly turning to virtual crowdfunding in a bid to boost innovation and entrepreneurship as pressure mounts on the higher education system to deliver good value for students and employers.

According to the Government’s recently published Higher Education White Paper, the UK’s continued success as a knowledge economy relies on the system embracing innovation, while focusing on student satisfaction and graduate employment.

To that end, forward-thinking universities are increasingly utilising ‘real world’ modern technologies to improve the relevant skills and experiences of their students.

Five such universities have already started incorporating virtual crowdfunding into the curriculum as a practical mechanism for developing enterprising skills.

The University of Birmingham, Bradford Management School, London College of Fashion, Henley Centre of Entrepreneurship and Worcester Business School have become the first to pilot a new virtual crowdfunding platform called ‘Sandpit’ and are now expanding its use to further courses.

The Sandpit is the latest tool to be launched by the Crowdfund Campus parent platform - a live crowdfunding site which already works with universities to launch innovative projects devised by students, staff and graduates.

The Sandpit enables students to test and develop their ideas in a simulated crowdfunding environment before taking the next step of going live with a real campaign.

It uses a virtual currency that students compete over to get their ideas funded. The currency is scarce, so most campaigns fail and that is where the opportunity for learning takes place

Henry Jinman, one of the Crowdfund Campus founders, said: “The Sandpit is a safe place for students to test their ideas. It enables students to build their entrepreneurial ideas into ‘virtual’ crowdfunded campaigns that they can then pitch to their peers.

“It uses a virtual currency that students compete over to get their ideas funded. The currency is scarce, so most campaigns fail and that is where the opportunity for learning takes place - at a time when most businesses fail because they have created something that nobody wants. This is practical, interactive learning at its best and is a great way for universities to teach students the ways and means to test their ideas.”

Bringing technologies such as crowdfunding platforms into the classroom also presents one way in which universities can differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive environment.

“Enterprise is an area in which universities can excel in the areas set out in the HE White Paper, but on the whole they have been struggling to apply enterprise to the curriculum. Virtual crowdfunding provides an easy way to achieve that goal and modernise their teaching,” Henry added.

Participating universities used The Sandpit in Undergraduate and Postgraduate modules spanning courses in Entrepreneurship, Marketing and even Sports Management.

Dan Henderson, Programme Director at the London College of Fashion, said: “Creative universities such as ours are always trying to innovate through enhancing the academic curriculum with new ideas and technologies.

“Ultimately, we want our students to have the best learning experience possible whilst at the same time ensuring we equip them with the understanding and skills necessary for future employment.”

The University of Bradford has embarked on a further three-year project with Crowdfund Campus. Lecturers co-ordinating the project, Rana Tassabehji and Caroline Parkinson, say the university is now aiming to develop an ‘integrated curriculum for entrepreneurship and innovation teaching’ through multi-disciplinary programmes at Masters and Undergraduate level.

Rana Tassabehji said: “The ultimate objective is to have students graduating with the skills and knowledge that are relevant to the real world by creating and launching their own enterprises, ventures or technologies and with the opportunity of generating more creative ways of attracting funding.”

Crowdfund Campus will be publishing its own white paper on June 15, exploring how crowdfunding was implemented into the curriculum in the five university case studies; including how it was applied through both the real and virtual platforms and the overall results of the scheme.

For more information, visit and register your interest.


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