1. What is this about?
Making sure that anyone representing the University of Warwick (staff, student helpers etc.) complies with consumer protection law. Consumer protection legislation has applied to the HE sector for some time, however recently-issued guidance from the Competition and Markets Authority, has meant that universities have been open for scrutiny by the CMA from October 2015.
2. What does it mean in practice?
For the purposes of the law, the University is a ‘trader’ and students are ‘consumers’. Applicants are likely to take the information we provide to them into account when making a decision about where to study. Information we give to anyone who subsequently accepts an offer of a place is deemed ‘pre-contact information’ under the law and is therefore binding. Since what we say to applicants as well as what we put in writing can act as a contract we must take care to prevent future students from feeling we did not deliver what was promised.
3. Good practice.
(a) You are likely to be asked questions you don’t know the answer to. Do ask someone more knowledgeable if you can, otherwise please ask guests to visit the Digilab, where colleagues will have specialist knowledge. If this is not possible, take the enquirer’s details to pass onto email@example.com.
(b) We are always evolving: particular staff, the way a course is taught and fees for a course, are all subject to change. It is therefore best to talk from personal experience, e.g. ‘when I studied this module it was like this…..’, rather than ‘this module is taught in this way’.
(c) Please talk about the current situation rather than speculate about the future, e.g. ‘Currently, contact hours for this course are 20 per week….’, rather than ‘If you take this course you will have 20 contact hours per week’. Where you know about information that exists, e.g. KIS, UniStats, please direct guests to these.
(d) We must be careful to describe what we provide, services, experiences, in a factual way that doesn’t conflict with written information available to applicants, so please take care not to exaggerate any claims about what the University provides.
(e) Please be alert to the potential to mislead guests by omitting information. Providing the fullest, clearest possible answers to questions and sign posting to expert colleagues should help avoid this.
(f) Please remember that student blogs and other student-led social media activity represent the student voice, and not that of the University.
(g) We must be particularly careful to give accurate information about costs, particularly hidden course costs, so guests should be referred to knowledgeable colleagues/ firstname.lastname@example.org where necessary.
Thank you for your help and support with our Open Days.