The UK’s advertising watchdog has warned six universities they must remove misleading marketing claims.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) says exaggerated claims are being made by the institutions for attracting students in their advertising material.

The Universities concerned that had complaints upheld are: East Anglia, Leicester, Falmouth, Strathclyde, the University of West London and Teesside.

The chief executive of the ASA, Guy Parker, said that students are looking for ‘good evidence’ as they look to make a large financial commitment to their education.

He added: “It’s unfair to mislead students and can lead them to making a choice that is not right for them.”

Universities will be issued with guidance on using misleading information

Now, for the first time, all universities will be given guidance on how to avoid using misleading information when communication with potential student applicants.

The news comes as thousands of young people are looking at their options and making applications for next autumn’s University courses.

The ASA says that universities recruiting students must be objective and be able to prove their claims about their high status.

The watchdog insists it wants to prevent unjustified claims being made and for universities to offer a better explanation of their achievements in league tables and rankings.

Universities had complaints using questionable information

Of the six universities that had complaints over using questionable information upheld:

  • Falmouth University: Told it cannot describe itself as the ‘UK’s number one creative University’ and the ‘UK’s number one arts University’
  • Teesside University: the complaint for claiming it’s the ‘top university in England for long-term graduate prospects’ was upheld
  • University of East Anglia: informed they can no longer claim to be in the ‘top 5 for student satisfaction’
  • University of Leicester: can no longer claim it is a ‘top 1% world University’
  • University of Strathclyde: must change its claims that for physics, it is ranked ‘number one in the UK’
  • University of West London: has been told to stop claiming it is ‘one of the top 10 in the UK’ and ‘London’s top modern university’.

Mr Parker says that one of the issues facing the Advertising Standards Authority has been over how the information from comparison tables and rankings has been presented by universities in their advertising.

He added: “If you make claims about global or national ranking, graduate prospects for student satisfaction then make sure you practice what you teach and back up claims with good evidence.”

Institutions say they have been publishing accurate information

In their defence, the institutions concerned say they have been publishing information that is accurate but admit there could be better clarification with the claims.

In a statement, the University of Leicester admitted that it did not set out to ‘mislead or confuse prospective students’.

A spokesman for Universities UK, the representative organisation for all universities, said: “The proliferation of data, university rankings and awards means there is a need for clear guidelines for universities on how they use this information which is understood clearly by students.”