Unibuddy’s Inaugural Netherlands Summit | Report

Attendees from higher education institutions across the Netherlands joined us in Utrecht this week for the inaugural Unibuddy Netherlands Summit.

Our first-ever summit in the Netherlands was focused on the future of student recruitment, and how universities across the country are using peer-to-peer to transform their strategy. Plus – universities shared their experiences of managing ambassador teams, marketing to Gen Z, and more.

Power to the Peers

As always at a Unibuddy event, it was followed by the opportunity to network with higher education professionals from up and down the country. 

Whether you were there and want to relive it, or missed the event and need to catch up, here’s our rundown of the 2020 Netherlands Unibuddy Summit.

Unibuddy netherlands summit

The day began with a talk from our events manager, Poppy Fox, on the increasing role of peer influence in the Netherlands.

Poppy spoke about the importance of bringing professionals from student recruitment together and delivering peer-to-peer on all levels. She said: “I’m always really impressed by the peer-to-peer atmosphere and spirit that’s generated by an event like this: everyone sharing their tips and tricks to improve Higher Education for everyone.” 

10% of Unibuddy’s 2 million messages have been exchanged on Dutch platforms, making the country the third-largest adopter of digital peer-to-peer in the world. 

The Unibuddy Blueprint

Following the first session, our Customer Suggest Manager, Camille, teamed up with two of our current Unibuddy partners to deliver a session on the best ways to optimise Unibuddy for your marketing and comms strategy.

Arlinda Bergwerff, International Marketing & Recruitment Officer at Utrecht University and Naya Pessoa, Recruitment and Admissions Officer, Webster Leiden Campus spoke about the role of peer-to-peer in their recruitment campaigns.

Unibuddy netherlands summit

Arlinda explained what she saw as a major benefit of Unibuddy: “we can use Unibuddy in all stages of the funnel: it’s helpful for people who want to know more about the program, but also later in the funnel after the admission, because then they get to ask practical questions about what the weather is like, what sort of things they need to bring.”

Naya said that Webster Leiden had a specific challenge in mind when they adopted Unibuddy: “our admitted students have all these questions. Being a small team, we didn’t have time to answer them all but they are the things that will make a student choose a campus. They want to feel like it can be their home.

“I had a student tell me that they made the decision to come because of a conversation they had with an ambassador who told them about the theatre group!”

And to prove how Unibuddy can be successfully implemented regardless of size, Utrecht has 200+ ambassadors while Webster Leiden has 4 – both have deployed successfully and seen great results! 

What was clear is that successful Unibuddy usage depends on wide-ranging promotion and buy-in from across the institution. 

This lead into an interactive session focused around student recruitment marketing, and how to maximise its impactfulness. 

unibuddy netherlands summit

Some of the key topics including the role of peer-to-peer for recruiting international students. Universally, we are increasingly turning to authentic reviews and opinions and sometimes it is hard to make these accessible for international students.

Some best practice that came from attendees included promoting Unibuddy across the funnel, both online and offline. It is effective to ensure there is student representation on all high-traffic pages on the website, but the value of also promoting Unibuddy at offline event days and with printed marketing materials. 

Connecting with a Gen-Z audience was also a hot topic during the session. The vast majority of undergraduate students (81%) expect a personalised response to their enquiries. 43% want it within one day. Gen Z value an immediate response, and they want something personal. Providing this experience can be a challenge, but your current students can prove invaluable.

Empowering your ambassadors

After a break, we heard from Rob Speekenbrink of Noscura

unibuddy netherlands summit

Noscura helps higher education providers with online communication and creating authentic connections with its stakeholders. The company recognises that authenticity and genuine voices are essential to that mission. 

Student ambassadors represent that authentic voice. The content they create is invaluable to prospective students and applicants, and the opportunity to interact with them bridges the gap between traditional marketing and peer-to-peer. 

This is a point Rob makes: before the 2000s, reputation was controlled by ‘gatekeepers’ such as journalists, buzz was small scale, and those powerful interactions were very small scale. But now, everything has changed: reputation is online and interactions can cross borders. 

Working with your students is a good idea, says Rob. They are available 24/7, they speak the language of your prospects, and they provide first-hand honest information. Plus, as the advertising landscape bombards young people with slick messaging, universities need to maintain credibility. 

How we develop our features

Next up was the product session, looking specifically how we develop our features and shape the future of the Unibuddy platform. This year, we’ve gathered more user feedback than ever before to inform and shape the future of Unibuddy.

yahya unibuddy netherlands summit

Head of Product, Yahya Wahbeh, explained how this feedback goes through a process of Discovery, Analysis and Design.

“Our process helps us confidently build the right things for you.” Called the User-Centred Design Process, Yahya explained how it allows us to best understand your experience, your ambassadors’ experience and the prospective student experience.

One recent example was the development of the AI-powered Question Suggestion System. We wrote in detail about why we implemented a Question Suggestion System, and how it works to boost engagement for your prospective students.

Yahya shared some insights specific to the Netherlands. Unlike in the UK and USA, students considering Dutch universities are less interested in living and more concerned with comparing institutions. It’s important, then, that Higher Education providers are making themselves stand out. 

Domestic students in the Netherlands are particularly concerned with the teaching style, and aspects of the course. International students, meanwhile, have differing interests depending on which territory they are from. Yahya spoke about the new Conversation Insights feature and how it is helping institutions break down their prospective students’ key interests. 

Hearing from our users

netherlands summit

Yahya was joined by Aleksandra Stuip, Online Marketing Adviser at Erasmus School of Economics, who shared her experience of using Unibuddy. Erasmus School of Economics launched Unibuddy in Spring 2018, one of the earliest institutions in the Netherlands to take on the platform. 

Aleksandra 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.”

They started with six ambassadors – and soon grew their scheme to meet the demand of prospective students. Since then, over 1,150 students have signed up from 112 different countries. Erasmus School of Economics ambassadors have answered 12,000+ questions, and the impact on conversion and click through rates has been huge.

Finally, Unibuddy CCO Jonathan Tinnacher took to the stage to summarise and close the day. Unibuddy’s mission is to power better decision making through shared human experience, and Jonathan shared his pride at the thousands of connections our partners in the Netherlands are facilitating.

Thank you to everyone who attended our inaugural Netherlands Unibuddy Summit! It was great to meet so many of our university partners and share your ideas and experiences: peer-to-peer in action!

We look forward to seeing you soon – at our next #UnibuddyNL!


Book a free demo and start recruiting your best-fit students.

Book a demo