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UK universities have been rumbled for ‘misleading’ ranking claims

Advertise it as it is. No filters, please. Source: Shutterstock

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has forced some UK universities to drop marketing claims about their place in university rankings, for being “misleading”.

The ASA took action against several universities for making deceptive claims about their rankings as an institution.

The universities that came under fire include East Anglia, Leicester and West London, Falmouth and Teesside universities. 

“Misleading would-be students is not only unfair, it can also lead them to make choices that aren’t right for them,” ASA chief executive, Guy Parker said to BBC.

Falmouth University was pulled up for 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 UK rankings, reported The Times Higher Education (THE) 

Although the university was ranked as the highest-ranked institution in a list of “arts universities” by The Times and Sunday Times, the ASA said Falmouth was not the top university when the guides were filtered to rank institutions by subjects such as arts in the claimed years. 

According to THE, Teesside University came under fire for claiming that it was the “top university in England for long-term graduate prospects” based on the government’s 2016 longitudinal outcomes data.

The ASA said the data was “open to interpretation” and the adverts “did not make clear the basis of the claim as the university’s own analysis of the cited government data”.

However, the BBC reported that in a statement released by Teesside University, a spokesperson said: “We strongly believe that the marketing message was accurate, but we respect the decision of the Advertising Standards Authority.”

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said to BBC that competition between universities now has a “touch of the Wild West about it.”

“Universities should be careful about their claims, which need to be robust, truthful and useful. But it is a good thing that they are telling potential applicants more than they used to in the past.”

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