Does Consumer Protection Law affect me?
Consumer protection law can potentially impact the work of any colleague who has contact with applicants and students. We have a collective responsibility to understand what constiutes compliance with consumer protection law as it relates to higher education.
How might Consumer Protection Law affect the University?
Students who feel that they have not received the service advertised, or that any changes to the service were not handled appropriately, will be able to bring a case against the University, with the potential for the University having to pay for the student to re-take their degree. Not delivering what was promised could also adversely affect the University's reputation.
What action should I take?
Please take steps to understand how consumer protection law relates to your role at the University. A good starting point is the Moodle course 'Applying Consumer Protection Law at Warwick'. If you change role, do refresh your understanding and ensure you understand how consumer protection law relates to your new role.
How can I find out about staff engagement with the Applying Consumer Protection Law at Warwick course?
The course administrator can find out which colleagues have successfully completed the course. If the request comes from a colleague who is not a Head of Department, or a colleague with a role that includes an HR remit, the Head of Department will need to authorise the request. Requests for information on staff engagment with the course should be made to cpl at warwick dot ac dot uk.
Is there any flexibility in the contact hours advertised to students?
An ex-Warwick student brought a case to the OIA that was partly justified on the basis that the average contact hours described in advertising materials had not reflected their experience. Where contact hours are included in any pre-contract information, care should be taken not to divert from these.
Is there any guidance on how far in advance a new course should be developed?
If colleagues in undergraduate admissions have not received approved paperwork by early December, 22 months ahead of a course opening, the course details will not be included in the print prospectus (e.g. if a course is starting in 2020, the course must be approved by December 2018). However, it is possible to include a statement in print explaining that a new course is in development. As soon as the course is approved, the online team can create a new course page on the undergraduate study webpages. The course approval process takes variable lengths of time, depending on complexity (e.g. collaborative courses are likely to take longer to approve). Advice on the course approval process is available from courseapproval at warwick dot ac dot uk. More detailed information relating to marketing is available in the form of Student Recruitment and Marketing Guidelines.
What should happen where changes to a course are proposed?
Where a proposed change to a course would effect a course-level learning outcome or material information (see http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/aro/cpl/materialinfo/ for what comprises material information), student feedback from the cohort(s) to be affected by the proposal should be sought in addition to student representatives on the relevant Student Staff Liaison Committee(s), i.e. the student body should be consulted in the widest possible way prior to any changes being proposed. Ideally, this would be via a direct e-mail to individual students affected, giving them an opportunity to respond with feedback by a given date, after which feedback would be considered and any alterations to planned changes made to accommodate reasonable feedback. The affected cohorts should then be notified of the effective date of the changes originally proposed. Where further changes have been made in the light of feedback, these should also be communicated.
What should happen where changes to a course have been agreed?
Where an approved change to an advertised course will affect a course-level learning outcome or previously published ‘material information’, current applicants should be informed. Please ensure that any communications of this nature are provided in draft form to the Head of Admissions in SROAS (currently Kim Eccleston), both to check content and to make sure that the correct applicants are identified for receipt. This will ensure that communications are sent to the correct applicant pool.
How can I ensure that applicants are aware of additional costs?
Universities are required to inform applicants of the entire cost of study, including ‘additional’ costs beyond the advertised course fee, accommodation charges and subsistence requirements. Information on additional costs should be included in student handbooks, but is also published centrally. If you need to update this information, please email webeditor at warwick dot ac dot uk.
Is there anyone I can talk to if I have a question?
If you are an academic colleague please get in touch with your contact in Teaching Quality in the first instance, or Quality at warwick dot ac dot uk. Other colleagues may use the consumer protection law resource accountcpl at warwick dot ac dot uk.