Banned, univer­sity ads that mis­lead stu­dents about ca­reer prospects

Scottish Daily Mail - - Life - By Eleanor Hard­ing Ed­u­ca­tion Cor­re­spon­dent

‘Make choices that aren’t right’

UNI­VER­SI­TIES have been rep­ri­manded over ‘mis­lead­ing’ ad­verts that made false claims about job prospects, rank­ings and stu­dent sat­is­fac­tion.

The ad­ver­tis­ing watch­dog banned ad­verts at six in­sti­tu­tions af­ter find­ing they were ‘un­fair’ on stu­dents be­cause they were not backed up by ev­i­dence.

In one ex­am­ple, for­mer polytech­nic Teesside Univer­sity, which is ranked 101st in the Com­plete Univer­sity Guide, wrongly claimed that it was ‘top in Eng­land for long-term grad­u­ate prospects’. The Univer­sity of West London, also a for­mer polytech­nic and ranked 79th, made a bo­gus claim that it was the ‘top mod­ern univer­sity’ in the city.

The other uni­ver­si­ties cen­sured by the Ad­ver­tis­ing Stan­dards Au­thor­ity (ASA) were Fal­mouth, East Anglia, Le­ices­ter and Strath­ti­ate clyde. The find­ings come amid con­cerns that stu­dents are tak­ing on debt to at­tend cour­ses.

Fol­low­ing the re­moval of the cap on stu­dent num­bers, some uni­ver­si­ties are adopt­ing ag­gres­sive mar­ket­ing tech­niques.

The ASA found many ‘mis­lead­ing ’ claims on univer­sity web­sites and so­cial me­dia and warned them to hold rel­e­vant data to back up their ads in fu­ture.

ASA chief ex­ec­u­tive Guy Parker said: ‘Mis­lead­ing would-be stu­dents is not only un­fair, it can also lead them to make choices that aren’t right for them. We’re is­su­ing new guid­ance to help uni­ver­si­ties get their ads right.’

Of­fi­cials found that Fal­mouth Univer­sity was un­able to sub­stan- its claim to be the ‘UK’s No 1 Arts Univer­sity’ af­ter an aca­demic com­plained that there were other higher-rank­ing uni­ver­si­ties of­fer­ing cre­ative cour­ses.

Fal­mouth said its claims were based on a sub­set of five ‘arts uni­ver­si­ties’ in three league ta­bles, but the ASA said the claim was only gen­er­ated by ‘nar­row­ing the pool of com­peti­tors’.

Of­fi­cials also said Univer­sity of East Anglia’s as­ser­tion that it was in the ‘top five for stu­dent sat­is­fac­tion’ could not be proved.

They banned a paid-for Face­book post for the Univer­sity of Le­ices­ter claim­ing that the in­sti­tu­tion was ‘a top 1 per cent world univer­sity’.

The Univer­sity of Strath­clyde was also re­buked over a claim on its physics page that it was ‘rated num­ber one in the UK for re­search’. The uni­ver­si­ties said they based their claims on in­de­pen­dent as­sess­ments.

A Univer­sity of Strath­clyde spokesman said: ‘The ASA clearly agreed that we had pro­vided ev­i­dence of be­ing ranked num­ber one for physics re­search by the Times Higher Ed­u­ca­tion’s anal­y­sis of the Re­search Ex­cel­lence Frame­work (REF) in 2014.

‘We in­cluded a link to the REF web­site to en­able read­ers to gain the most de­tailed and up-to-date com­par­isons avail­able.’

A Uni­ver­si­ties UK spokesman said: ‘With a pro­lif­er­a­tion of rank­ings, data and awards in ex­is­tence, there is a need for clearer guide­lines for uni­ver­si­ties in how they use this in a way which is clearly un­der­stood by stu­dents and those work­ing in the sec­tor.’

Com­ment – Page 18

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