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UK to Scrutinise University Adverts to Crack Down on ‘Dead-End’ Courses

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The British government has called for more “clarity and honesty” in advertisements for university courses to prevent students from being trapped in “dead-end courses.”

Under new guidance published on July 1, universities will have to include in their adverts comparable data on the proportion of students who drop out and the likelihood of going on to a graduate job or further study after finishing the course.

The guidance would apply to all forms of advertising, and the information should be “noticeable,” the guidance said.

The latest data showed that fewer than six in 10 students would make the same choice of university or course if they could make the decision again, the government said.

Epoch Times Photo
Minister for Higher and Further Education, Michelle Donelan addresses delegates during the Conservative Party Spring Conference, at Blackpool Winter Gardens in Blackpool, north-west England, on March 18, 2022. (Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

Michelle Donelan, the minister for higher and further education, said the move would give students clarity about what universities are offering them, especially for pupils who are the first in their families to do a degree.

“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,” she said.

Donelan warned against “bold university advertising,” which often promises students a “high-quality experience even when the statistics suggest they will be stuck on a dead-end course.”

She said she wants 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.”

She added: “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.”

‘Mickey Mouse’ Courses

The minister has repeatedly emphasised the importance of the quality of university courses and criticised what she calls “Mickey Mouse” courses.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph in January, she said: “Universities try to entice pupils to the front door and say that’s social mobility. Actually, that doesn’t help anybody. They then drop out after a term or a year. All they have then is debt and the stigma of having dropped out.”

Drop-out rates are as high as 40 percent on some courses in British universities, she said.

“I use the term ‘Mickey Mouse’ because some of these courses are Mickey Mouse in essence,” said the minister, who was the first member of her family to ever go to university.

“People from my kind of background, they just see a course. They’ve not got those advisers telling them this course is far superior to that one, and they can just end up doing a course hoping it’s going to lead them somewhere, and it doesn’t.”

PA Media contributed to this report.

Alexander Zhang

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