Universities have been reprimanded over "misleading" adverts that made false claims about job prospects, rankings and student satisfaction.
The ASA has launched the crackdown to address "increasing concerns" about the way universities entice students, after the issue was thrust into the spotlight in June, when the University of Reading was forced to withdraw its claim it was in the top 1% of institutions globally.
The ASA found a claim by Teesside University that it was the "top university in England for long-term graduate prospects" was misleading, as was the University of East Anglia's assertion that it was in the "top 5 for student satisfaction".
The University of West London, also a former polytechnic and ranked 79th, made a bogus claim that it was "top modern university" in the capital.
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. But 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". We were not provided with sufficient evidence to support the figure of 26,000 universities worldwide on which the claim in the ad was based. "Going to university involves a big financial commitment and misleading would-be students is not only unfair, it can also lead them to make choices that aren't right for them".
He added that the ASA will issue new guidance to help universities "get their ads right so students can be confident they'll get what they pay for". With a proliferation of university rankings, data and awards now 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 as well as by those working in the sector.
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"Universities UK is already in contact with the Advertising Standards Authority and we are keen to work with them on promoting guidance and good practice among our members".
"In the old days the top-tier universities filled up first and the other ones filled up afterwards", he said.
Several of the universities said they disagreed with the ASA but would abide by their ruling.
Falmouth University said it was "disappointed" with the ruling. 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 are disappointed with the ruling, we have included an additional reference to the Times Higher Education in our statement". The university says "we strongly believe that the marketing message was accurate, but we respect the decision".
Guy Parker, chief executive of the ASA, said the rulings "send a clear message to United Kingdom universities".
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