Tilburg University’s enrollment numbers have been declining since 2012. In 2011, 5.3 percent of high school graduates chose Tilburg. This number fell to 4.3 per cent last year. The early, provisional, numbers for this year point towards a further decrease of 3.7 per cent. The university, meanwhile, aims for 5 per cent of total enrollments in 2016. What’s the solution? Tim Hofman, presenter for youth television broadcaster BNN, is part of the answer.
Hedvig Niehoff, head of Tilburg University’s Education and Research Marketing department, explains all at the committee for the day-to-day administration of the university. Staff and students representing several parties sit on this sub-committee of the University Council, as well as the Executive Board.
Niehoff points to several causes that account for the disappointing rates: the number of graduates at vwo level (pre-university education) in the southern provinces of Brabant, Zeeland and Limburg, the university’s home market, is lower than the national rate and will stall in 2018, according to the Ministry of Education. On a national level, the rate of vwo graduates will grow until 2020.
Another cause: high school graduates living in the region are more inclined to enroll in an hbo course at a university of applied sciences compared to the national rate (15 per cent nationally and 18 per cent regionally). In addition, 54 per cent of high school graduates have specialized in technical subjects, “which doesn’t match Tilburg University’s brand”, Niehoff says.
The spontaneous awareness rate of Tilburg University has been proven to be dismal. When asked to list universities, none of the interviewees in Zeeland mentions Tilburg University. Limburg hardly fares better: 26 per cent mentions Tilburg University. In the home province of Brabant, more than half names Tilburg University.
The effects of new legislation are always unpredictable, but the new loan system may just benefit Tilburg University. “Tilburg is a relatively cheap place to live,” Niehoff explains. But when it comes to the universities north of the rivers, Tilburg University is seemingly unable to compete. It can’t be done without twice the current marketing budget, Niehoff says.
The solution: “more intensive recruitment and product development.” A new corporate campaign will kick off in October and “is aimed to make every student aware of Tilburg University”. Tim Hofman, reporter for BNN’s drugs, drink and sex program Spuiten en Slikken, will be involved. He was picked because high school graduates identify with him and he will feature prominently in BNN programs in the coming months,” Niehoff states.
On the other hand, the university is considering offering broader Bachelor’s courses and cooperating on courses with, for example, Eindhoven University of Technology. In addition, the course directors of the schools formally share responsibility for the enrollment rates. This year, the marketing campaign will focus on the home market; it includes a road show that visits every high school in the region and promotes Tilburg as a fun student city.
This academic year’s enrollment numbers will be made known after 1 October.