The British Council's marketing watchdog has moved to prevent turf wars between universities and colleges operating overseas.
A tough code drafted by the Educational Counselling Service bans institutions from openly criticising each other to gain a competitive edge and from distributing misleading or incomplete information.
Failure to comply could lead to the offending institution being stripped of ECS membership.
This would mean exclusion from exhibitions and recruitment fairs, loss of other marketing support and no access to information on developing markets.The ECS plans to appoint a permanent chair of disciplinary panels to deal with complaints against member institutions or their staff.
The code won support at the service's annual meeting and is expected to come into force from next April.
It requires members to act "in a manner that will contribute to the image of the United Kingdom as a reliable and trustworthy provider of high-quality education and training".
This means not distributing information in order to discredit other institutions or being rude to staff from other universities and colleges. The code says: "Unfortunately there have been many occasions when staff or representatives of subscribing institutions have acted in an offensive manner towards colleagues."
Members are warned they must not publish or orally deliver false, incomplete or misleading information about themselves or their courses.
Even the accidental production of false or misleading information "is likely to be viewed in itself as evidence of a failure to adhere to professional standards", says the code.