Using business methods to diversify the student population of Dutch Language and Culture

How can the student intake of the bachelor’s degree in Dutch Language and Culture become more diverse? How can recruitment better suit a broad target group, for example including students with a migration background or science students? A project of the Utrecht Young Academy aims to answer these questions using two innovative business methods: the Lean Startup Method and Sprint.

Develop-measure-learn feedback loop

Creating more diversity at university is a complex task. Too often, organisations implement strategies before the full extent of the problem has been identified. This project uses the Lean Startup Method, a business model, to better understand how diversity issues can be tackled effectively. Steve Blank and Eric Ries developed the Lean Startup Method to gain insight into the needs and pains of a target group.

The method uses a develop-measure-learn feedback loop which tests ideas quickly to improve results. The advantage of this method is that, by testing many different options, you can gain comprehensive insights that go beyond previous assumptions and prejudices. These insights are necessary to create a suitable plan to tackle the specific issues. This plan is then tested and readjusted after every test. This reduces the waste of money and time on solutions that are not effective in the end.

In-depth interviews on information materials

Several forms of information materials that could appeal to a more diverse student population were introduced to students and high school pupils. Interviews, conducted with a specific structure and tone, were analysed to discover how pupils respond and where there is room for improvement. This also provided a more extensive idea of the pupil’s situation, preferences and goals related to the study choice process and life in general. The project focused on pupils with a migration background.

These business methods provided a stimulating and novel approach

The project is a collaboration between Martine Veldhuizen and Lieke Stelling, both member of the Utrecht Young Academy, Feike Dietz and Tessa van de Warenburg. This project stands out because of the methods used to gain a better understanding of the target group. These business methods provided a stimulating and novel approach, which resulted in surprising findings that go beyond existing assumptions and expectations.

Infographic with findings of the project

Tessa van de Warenburg, Research Assistant at the Department of Languages, Literature and Communication, conducted interviews with students and high school pupils according to the Sprint method. “These are qualitative interviews that help you understand the pupil’s background and make them feel comfortable. By doing this, people do not feel as if they are being tested, which allows you to gain more information when you show them the products we have developed.”

Tessa explains that the interviews focused on how pupils perceived the information products, rather than the cultural background of the pupils. “We would like to hear what they think of these products, I did not ask all kinds of questions on their migration background. Whether someone identifies with their background and whether this affects their choice of study strongly differs per person. We wanted to appeal to a diverse target group, but diversity was not the main topic of conversation.”

People do not feel as if they are being tested, which allows you to gain more information when you show them the products we have developed.

The interviews with students and pupils provided several results. For example, it can be helpful to emphasise the extent of job possibilities with a bachelor in Dutch Language and Culture. Furthermore, the website functions as a valuable information source for pupils. It is therefore valuable to pay more attention to the website, for instance by posting a “Frequently Asked Questions” page. On this page, commonly asked questions can be answered, such as whether you can start the bachelor’s programme if Dutch is not your first language. An overview of the project results is visualised in an infographic.

Both the methods used during the project as well as the insights gained from this approach can be used in other study programmes or in the acquisition of university employees.