From education to employment

DfE tell Universities that adverts should be honest with prospective students about graduate outcomes

Michelle Donelan

Universities are being given new guidance on adverts to put an end to misleading claims that attract prospective students onto dead end courses.

The plans aim to give students genuine choice about where to study and will clearly identify courses with high drop-out rates and poor graduate outcomes.

DfE advise that Adverts to give prospective students better information on university course outcomes

  • Course adverts should now include comparable data on drop-out rates and what proportion of students go on to graduate jobs
  • Key push from government to improve quality, transparency and fairness for students

Under the new guidance published today (1 July), university course adverts will be required to include comparable data on drop-out rates and the proportion of students who go on to graduate jobs or further study. All forms of advertising including digital, TV and radio should include such data so students have useful information to hand to make better choices about their post-18 study options.

The latest data shows that looking back now, fewer than 6 out of 10 students would make the same choice of course and university. The new guidance will help ensure that all students have easy access to core data about their course prospects, helping them to make the right decision for their future.

Minister for Higher and Further Education Michelle Donelan said:

“I know from the community I grew up in that choosing where and what to study can be difficult – especially for first-in-family students. Making such a significant investment in your time, money and future is not made any easier by bold university advertising, which often promise students a high-quality experience even when the statistics suggest they will be stuck on a dead-end course.

“I have therefore produced guidance to ensure that just as every advert for a loan or credit card must include basic information like the APR, every university advert should include comparable data on drop-out rates and the progression rate of students into graduate jobs or further study.

“Prospective students deserve clarity and honesty and I will not hesitate to ensure they get it. Quality, transparency and fair access are my priorities and this guidance will help students to make the right decision for themselves and for their future.”

This underlines previous calls made from Minister Donelan, who has long made clear that whilst universities are entitled to sell their best features, they should do so in an honest and transparent way which empowers students.

This data should be noticeable in all forms of advertising, such as being written in the opening lines of a web advert and being quoted in adverts made for TV or radio, so that students can make an informed decision as easily as possible. In cases where this is not possible, such as for new courses without any previous data, universities are advised to include provider-level data.

This guidance builds on the Government’s mission to drive up quality, transparency and fairness for students – including tackling drop-out rates and improving graduate progression – with the longer-term aim of helping young people to get the education and skills they need to succeed, supporting them in getting good jobs and achieving their ambitions.

As an alternative to university courses, there are lots of choices out there for students to get where they want to go, and the Government encourages students to talk to their school or college about the range of post 16 and 18 options available to them including degree apprenticeships, apprenticeships, and higher technical qualifications.

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