City advert 'stretched the truth'

August 16, 1996

Advertising standards watchdogs have upheld for the first time a complaint about quality claims made by a university.

City University's Centre for Internal Auditing was forced to change an advertisement placed in the trade press which implied the centre had been rated "excellent" by funding council assessors.

The change was made after the Advertising Standards Authority agreed with a former City University academic that the advertisement amounted to "stretching the truth".

The centre, although part of the university's business school which had received an "excellent" rating, had not been included in the assessment visit on which the top quality grading was based.

But the words "rated excellent by Government funding body" appeared in the advertisement in Internal Auditor underneath the centre's banner and the title of one of its courses, rather than the business school's logo which was in the opposite corner.

Caroline Crawford, the ASA's director of communications, said: "We could see the basis on which they were making the claim but we did feel the way it appeared amounted to stretching the truth. They have accepted that and agreed to change it."

A spokeswoman for City University commented: "The whole thing was resolved on an informal basis quickly and amicably to the complete satisfaction of the ASA and ourselves and was never accorded the status of an official complaint."

The ASA's ruling followed two other cases involving claims by further education colleges this year.

It upheld complaints made by the Birmingham College of Food, Tourism and Creative Studies about a brochure circulated by Clarendon College in Nottingham which boasted: "According to the FEFC (further education funding council), Clarendon College is the best general FE College in England", and that Clarendon was "the Number One General FE College" for teaching and learning, student recruitment and management and governance.

The ASA also supported complaints from Warrington Collegiate Institute about an advertisement placed by Wigan and Leigh College, which claimed to be "the best college in the North West" on the basis of inspection grades.

Frank Brogan, Wigan and Leigh's vice principal for business development, said colleges were under increasing pressure to promote themselves, and rival institutions were increasingly touchy about such promotion.

"In our opinion there have been similar advertisements from other colleges since the Warrington complaint but they didn't say anything because it wasn't in their patch. Everyone is really sensitive now, and if you don't have much to advertise about then you might be quite concerned when other people do," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Further Education Funding Council for England said colleges should sort disputes out among themselves.

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