Consumer Rights in HE: why training is needed

6th July 2018

Consumer rights in higher education are now a focus for the UK Government and means that Higher Education institutions must comply with consumer protection law and meet the standards defined by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Students are now recognised in law as “consumers” since the introduction of new Consumer Rights legislation in 2015. This means that students are now given the same protection as any consumer buying goods or services.

There are now regular stories appearing of universities being fined for non-compliance, with The Times leading a recent story with the headline Students could sue over shoddy but expensive degree courses.

In November 2017, the Advertising Standards Authority told six UK universities to take down marketing claims that could be misleading. The universities all had complaints upheld against them around describing themselves as a “top university” for several rankings.

In addition to the rights of the consumer, the Consumer Rights legislation also places obligations upon the universities. There are now minimum standards that apply to a Higher Education provider’s services for students around information provision, complaint handling and for fairness in their course terms and conditions.


Universities face increasing scrutiny from the CMA

Increasing scrutiny from the CMA means universities now face the challenge of training staff to raise awareness about the types of online and offline information they need to supply to students in order to comply with the new legislation.

For example, a lack of or change in information regarding the course could result in reputational damage for universities, having to refund course fees or students claiming damages.

The University of East Anglia (UEA) was fined by the CMA following “significant course changes” that their students complained about. As you can see with cases like this from UEA, is not the institutions fault as such, but it is just so easy to fall foul of these new measures.


Why consumer rights training is needed in higher education

As universities enter the corporate world, in a very competitive market, it is natural that marketing professionals under some pressure will make promises that are hard to quantify. Our training course just highlights that due diligence should be carried out in any claims, and this can even include individual academics talking to students at an open day.

As well as gaining a new understanding of rights afforded to ‘students as consumers’, universities and colleges should now be aware of what measures their organisation needs to take to remain compliant with this legislation.

In response to the new legislation, Marshall E-Learning has released Consumer Rights in Higher Education training to help organisations comply with this legislation.

Created for the University of Exeter among others, the training course provides Higher Education providers and their employees with information they will need to ensure they understand and adhere to these obligations.

Areas covered by the course include:

  1. The student research and application stage, where information forms part of the ‘Student Contract’
  2. The ‘Student Contract’ that is formed when the student accepts the offer of a place
  3. The student complaints process

As with all Marshall E-Learning courses, the 30-minute course can be viewed on a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone using any browser.

Find out more about the Consumer Rights in Higher Education e-learning course from Marshall E-Learning, or contact David Marshall on 0845 123 3909 or by emailing

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