Banned, university ads that mislead students about career prospects
‘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.’
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