Higher education institutions caught making potentially misleading claims

A number of universities are presenting unverifiable marketing claims making it difficult for prospective students to make informed choices, according to a new Which? University investigation.

Almost a year after the advertising watchdog upheld a number of complaints about  misleading information in higher education, the consumer champion found several universities are making unverifiable and potentially misleading claims.

Which? University carried out a review of comparative claims made by UK institutions and found that at least six universities included examples of unsubstantiated or unverifiable claims about their standing on their websites, in likely breach of advertising standards.

Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University described itself as, “one of the world’s leading universities for pioneering research informed by the needs of business and industry.” This claim was not supported by accessible facts or figures on the website and Heriot-Watt University is ranked 351st-400th out of 1,103 institutions in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2018. Following a letter from Which? University, Heriot-Watt explained that its links with business support its claim, which it stands by.

Newcastle University included a Key Facts document on its website that stated it was in the top 1% in the QS World University Rankings. It came 141st in the current table, putting it in the top 15% of ranked institutions. Following a letter from Which? University, Newcastle has removed this from its website.

Alex Hayman, Managing Director of Which? University, said:

It is critical that prospective students can trust the facts that higher education institutions are putting forward. However, we’ve found numerous examples of universities falling short.

“We want universities to act responsibly in line with the ASA’s guidelines as thousands across the country prepare to apply for the next step of their education in the coming weeks and months.”

Find out which other universities have been making unverifiable marketing claims and their responses to Which? Higher education institutions caught making potentially misleading claims

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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