Points of law

August 23, 2002

With reference to Frank Furedi's article "Would you fail the Trades Description Act?" ( THES , August 16), first, it is the Trade Descriptions Act 1968. Second, there may be more than a "little doubt" that universities could be "done" under the act as it applies to transactions in the course of a business - and the provision of higher education is not yet regarded as a business.

Third, even if the act applied, the university must have been acting with knowledge or must have been reckless as to whether the statements made in brochures are false (assuming that universities are providing a service and not goods).

Finally, these statements must have been false to a material degree. If degree certificates were "tested" under the act, nothing would happen because degree certificates are not a statement made in relation to goods or services. Moreover, the act is a criminal law measure and the prosecuting authorities would have to identify an individual whose actions could be attributed to the university. All in all, a non-starter, I think.

Christian Twigg-Flesner
Lecturer in law
Sheffield University

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