Funded PhD Opportunity Understanding Generation Z; an examination of their entrepreneurial potential and the implications for employers

This opportunity is now closed.

Subject: Business and Management Studies


Generation Z includes those born since the mid-nineties; the oldest, now being in their early twenties, are just beginning to enter the workforce, (Gibb and Hannon 2011).  They are identified as ‘Children of the Internet’, the ‘Digital Generation’ or ‘Digital Natives’; they are media savvy, members of the ‘ Generation’ or the ‘iGeneration’, (Singh and Dangmei, 2016; Johnson, 2015). Born into a ‘tech heavy’ society (Wiedmer, 2015; Singh and Dangmei, 2016; Premack, 2018), they take in information quickly but, compared to previous generations, they apparently have a shorter attention span (Generational White Paper, 2011; Williams, 2015) and are less likely to partake in risky behaviour, (Weller, 2017).

Notwithstanding their apparent adverse attitude to risk Generation Z are viewed as the most entrepreneurial generation ‘so far’ (Gibbons, 2018; Lufkin, 2018). Research in the USA and in the popular press reveals that 77% of children would like to be their own boss and 45% would like to have their own business (Calderon, 2011), including 42% of Generation Z females, (Wilen, 2016). Bresman and Rao (2017), identify Generation Z as having such high expectations of their potential that could potentially cause major issues when a greater number of this generation join the workforce. Generation Z values education but not the idea of student loans. Extant research, however, does not yet appear to have a sufficiently deep understanding of the influences and opinions of Generation Z with respect to entrepreneurial endeavour or their attitudes to employment including self-employment.

There are generational nuances here that need to be explored and understood regarding Generation Z.  This issue is compounded by the evolving labour market globally which is resulting in redesigned job roles, role elimination and emergence of new roles driven by economic, demographic and technological developments.  Current academic research in relation to Generation Z is limited, with much of what is known originating from popular media sources rather than academic research, (Rampton 2018; Bresman and Rao, 2017). Rampton (2018) suggests that ’Generation Z’ are unlike generations before them and that researchers need to better understand this constituency particularly as they approach working age. Weidmer (2015) suggests ‘most of the traits that will define this generation have yet to emerge’ (p55).

Furthermore, many businesses are already beginning to highlight their concerns about this new generation entering the workforce (ACAS, 2016), believing them to be less collaborative and self-centered than millennials, (Alsop, 2015). The potential opportunities, contradictions and challenges that define Generation Z are clearly emergent as is understanding of the potential of this generation to contribute entrepreneurially and economically.

The aim of this research therefore is to extend understanding of Generation Z, their entrepreneurial potential and the implications for employers. Consistent with other research focusing on generational behaviours and attitudes to entrepreneurial intention, including self-employment and employment, this research project will adopt a mixed methodology, (Mihalcea, 2012; Berkup, 2014; Bresman and Rao, 2017) focusing on the N Ireland context.

Essential Criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Research proposal of 2000 words detailing aims, objectives, milestones and methodology of the project

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Masters at 65%


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £15,009 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

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Key Dates

Submission Deadline
Monday 18 February 2019
Interview Date
week commencing 11 March 2019

Contact Supervisor

Professor Pauric McGowan

Other Supervisors

Apply online

Visit and quote reference number #344900 when applying for this PhD opportunity