30 May 2020
How European universities can future-proof student recruitment

Universities across Europe are radically transforming the way they do everything, from student recruitment to orientation, and from marketing to teaching. As the world enters ‘Industry 4.0’, so too must Higher Education providers across the continent. 

For those working in admissions, student recruitment and marketing it is more important than ever to be digitising and future-proofing your approach. When you’re appealing to ‘digital natives’, you must make sure the Higher Education experience is suited to their wants and needs. 

So how can you future proof your student recruitment activity? 

Interactive and personalised

Young people want online content that is tailored to them. Whether that is the ads they see, or the videos they watch and are recommended – they have grown up in a world where everything is personalised. 

Is your institution’s website personalised to them? 

Students will want to know how all of the information available to them comes together and links to their experience. For example, they want to know which dorms are closest to their faculty. What the local area is like at their chosen campus. What fees they have to pay based on the country they are from. 

You can deliver that with complicated algorithms across your website, but one simple method adopted by hundreds of universities worldwide is embedding the Unibuddy platform. It allows students to instantly connect with a current student who can provide them that personalised information, like which books they might be interested in reading before they start the course, or how long it might take them to travel home for Christmas. 

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, implemented Unibuddy to achieve just that. Johanna Goossens, Recruitment and Communications Manager, said: “We’ve been using ambassadors and peer-to-peer communication for a while, but we used to use Facebook. It had no lead generation and no monitoring capabilities, so Unibuddy has really enhanced our capability in that way.”

“It is very important for prospective students to hear from current students and it is very impactful, hearing from a current student really will make the difference.” 

People – not robots

Andy Grantham, International Project Manager at Business Academy Aarhus, sums it up: “This generation is all online and want instant information. And they want to speak to people, not to robots or our website. They’re not necessarily able to meet up at a fair or come to the campus – especially if they’re international students.”

It’s why User Generated Content is growing in importance. Universities across Europe are effectively utilising their students as content creators. They’re digital natives who are more than happy to create impressive and creative content in a range of mediums. 

After implementing Unibuddy, Business Academy Aarhus took full advantage of the social content tool. Andy said: “ Now, there is content actually written by students. And it’s not the classic ‘come to us, we’re the best’ kind of thing – it’s more like this is what you can experience. So it’s a much more subtle way of doing it.”

Peer connections

The universities of the future will recognise the importance of peer connections and reviews. Look at the rapid growth of TripAdvisor and Amazon, platforms that rely on user inputted results. People trust their peers. 

And that’s true in student recruitment. Across the board, in all the territories, students are influenced by peer to peer interactions. That was the finding of a 2019 report by Intead. In Asia, 51% of students said chatting online with a student ambassador influenced their decision about whether to apply to a university. And in Africa and Europe, that number rose to 69% and 62%, respectively.

Peer to peer was also influential at both undergraduate and graduate level. The latter found it significantly impactful: 56% said it affected their decision about whether to apply to university.

As the report summarises: “Student ambassadors instill confidence in prospective students and provide encouragement along the way. This provides a unique and honest perspective about academics, student life and local culture.”

Erasmus School of Economics adopted Unibuddy as a peer to peer solution. Aleksandra Stuip, Online Marketing Adviser, said: “We received a lot of requests from prospective students who wanted to get connected to our current students, but we couldn’t find an efficient and effective way to do this until we came across Unibuddy.”

“Then it all fell into place: prospects could get all their answers from our students and we as an institution get to see all the stats and measure the outcome.”

Accepted students who used Unibuddy were significantly more likely to enrol: 90% of those that chatted went on to enrol at the university, an increase of around 30% from the benchmark applicant to enrolment figure. 

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