What kind of information should be available to prospective students when they’re making that vital decision about choosing their higher education course?  The Competition and Markets Authority has just issued some advice for higher education providers that clarifies their legal obligations and a guide to consumer rights for students.

Helping students to choose: CMA publishes advice on consumer law and higher education

The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) is the body with responsibility for making markets work well and is charged by the Government with enforcing consumer law.  UK higher education providers – advice on consumer protection law: helping you comply with your obligations (CMA33) is now available on the CMA website and the CMA is writing to providers to publicise it.

The advice is accompanied by two 60 second guides: one for students and one for providers.  The first outlines the questions students should be asking as they make important decisions about their higher education.  The second explains how consumer law applies to information provision, terms and conditions and student complaints’ handling at universities, colleges and other providers.

We welcome CMA’s contribution in this area and the clarification provided by their new publications. Many universities and colleges already provide information about courses on their web-sites and this is complemented by the Key Information Set available on the Unistats web-site. Our own work on student decision making underlines the importance of presenting a rounded picture of the student experience, one in which they’ll be co-producers of their learning. We will be consulting later in 2015 about how we can help students to ask the right questions to make sense of the information available and help them to navigate information based on their own learning preferences.

CMA’s advice is useful for its explanation of how consumer law gives students protection as they are entering higher education.  Clarity and transparency about terms and conditions are also important, and CMA covers the need to ensure terms and conditions -and all rules, regulations and contracts that are applied to students – are fair and balanced, particularly in the areas of course change and fees increases. HEFCE is working with the National Union of Students and the sector representative organisations to help providers explain clearly what students can expect in the event of substantial course change or closure.

CMA’s publications on this topic