Government criticised over advert for diplomas

Advertising Standards Authority upbraids department for misleading claims that qualifications are accepted by all universities

October 28, 2009

A government department has been ticked off by the Advertising Standards Authority for falsely claiming that its flagship diploma qualifications are accepted by all universities.

A radio advertisement stated that “the diploma is a qualification for 14- to 19-year-olds that’s accepted by all universities”, while national press adverts told potential students that “an advanced diploma…can get you into any university”.

Two listeners suggested that the claims were misleading, because they understood that the University of Cambridge only accepted diplomas in one subject.

Their complaints were upheld by the ASA, which said that the adverts breached advertising standards codes.

It said that while Cambridge accepted the engineering diploma - provided it was taken alongside A-level physics – the university did not accept any of the other four diplomas launched in September 2008.

“We considered [the adverts] implied all diplomas represented a level of academic qualification that would be accepted by all universities. Because that was not the case, we concluded the ads were misleading,” said the ASA adjudication, published today.

In its response to the ASA, the Department for Children, Schools and Families argued that because all universities accepted at least one of the diplomas, the claims were acceptable.

The Radio Advertising Clearance Centre, which examined the content, said it did not agree that the radio advert was misleading because listeners would understand that “diploma” was a generic name.

By 2011, there will be 17 diploma subjects on offer. A survey by the Association of Colleges this week raised concerns about the complexities of delivering the diplomas, the funding method and the ability of the qualifications to meet the needs of all young people.

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