UEA forced to axe misleading student satisfaction claim

Why you always lying?

The University of East Anglia has been found to be one of six universities breaking advertising rules by making misleading and exaggerated claims about their league table rankings.

UEA's claim to be in the 'Top 5 for student satisfaction' was found to be misleading by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), and the university has now been banned from using that within their advertising promotions.

The ASA said it wanted to send a clear message to universities to warn them of backing up their claims with 'good evidence' after it found that several institutions across the country had gone against the guidelines of the advertisement policy. It has also been said that a new guidance will be drawn up as a result of this misconduct.

UEA is one of six universities to have been caught out by the ASA, along with Strathclyde, Falmouth, Teeside, Leicester the University of West London. All of the universities involved have been told to remove unsubstantiated boasts from their websites and warned that they must hold relevant data to back up their advertisements in the future.

They broke the rules around how their institutions were placed in official university league tables and the data used to make the comparison claims.

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By using the National Student Survey data, UEA had generated the 'Top 5' score with an internal reporting tool and by applying the definition of 'English mainstream universities' to the dataset. The ruling from the ASA however said that consumers who would have seem the advertisement, which had appeared on the universities homepage, would assume UEA had been ranked against all universities.

Maddie Colledge, UEA(su) Postgraduate Education Officer, has commented, saying:

"We know from talking to students that when they’re making uni choices, it’s getting very difficult to differentiate between reliable information and overblown marketing claims.

"Headline stats like ‘Top 5 for satisfaction’ might make us feel great but they mask all sorts of differences between courses and other indicators like satisfaction with assessment and feedback.

"We’ll be urging the new ‘Office for Students’ to make sure that students can access objective information that helps them cut through the glossy brochures and exaggerated claims."

In regards to the claims and actions that the ASA has directed toward them, a statement from UEA has also been released:

"The University accepts the ASA ruling and will stop using this wording in its communications and marketing materials.

"The classification ‘English mainstream’ has been used widely across the higher education sector to filter out small and specialist universities and was intended to help make like-for-like comparisons easier in relation to National Student Survey result."