Six UK universities break advertising rules with pitches to students

Six UK universities break advertising rules with pitches to students

The watchdog said that it felt so strongly about the issue of potentially misleading students - who are facing leaving university with huge loans that many will struggle to repay - that it is issuing new guidance to universities to make sure they abide by United Kingdom ad laws.

UEA told the ASA it had removed specialist universities from their calculations and only focused on mainstream institutions, which the ASA said could be "misleading" for the public.

The ruling against Falmouth University centred on its assertion that it was the "UK's No 1 Arts University (for three years running)" in The Times and Sunday Times 2017 league table and "The UK's number one creative university" in three domestic rankings.

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: "Our rulings send a clear message to United Kingdom universities".

The Advertising Standards Authority examined a range of claims - including the University of Leicester stating that it is in the "top 1%" in the world - and found that none of them could prove the assertions to be true.

The majority of complaints that were upheld about the universities pertained to misleading or unsubstantiated claims that they were "number one" for certain degree subjects. Four additional universities referred to by the university that could also be broadly defined as "modern" were ranked above UWL in the league table, it said.

It said that the evidence provided by the university "did not sufficiently substantiate the claim they meant to make".

"If you're making claims about your national or global ranking, student satisfaction or graduate prospects, make sure you practice what you teach: play by the advertising rules, in particular by backing up your claims with good evidence", he said.

"As well as sending this, we're also issuing new guidance to help universities get their ads right so students can be confident they'll get what they pay for".

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'.

"In the old days the top-tier universities filled up first and the other ones filled up afterwards", he said. Strathclyde, meanwhile, misleadingly implied that the Research Excellence Framework (REF) had ranked it as a the "number one physics department" in the United Kingdom, and the University of Leicester made an exaggerated statement. "While we disagree with the ASA on their assessment methodology, we will abide by their ruling". The university says "we strongly believe that the marketing message was accurate, but we respect the decision".

The ASA said that the universities' tactics broke the United Kingdom advertising code.