Watchdog targets ‘misleading’ MBA adverts

London-based provider told to remove text from website that implied it could award postgraduate degrees

June 28, 2023
Source: iStock

A UK-based education provider has been reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over its “misleading” marketing of a “Master of Business Administration” course.

The London School of Planning and Management (LSPM) described its 12-month “MBA” programme as “fully accredited and accepted worldwide”, but the course being offered was in fact a level 7 diploma in strategic management and leadership, an ASA investigation has found.

A page advertising the “MBA” on the school’s website was complained about in January 2023 due to LSPM not holding degree-awarding powers. The ASA described the complainant as a “director of quality and standards at a UK university”.

Text in a section marked “overview” stated: “The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a prestigious postgraduate qualification that is highly valued by leading employers. It can boost your salary, increase your professional reputation and expand your networking opportunities.”

Under the heading “Why choose LSPM?” it said: “Your qualification is recognised and accepted world over!…We are accredited”.

The price of the 12-month course was listed as £7,950 and an 18-month option cost £6,950.

Upholding the complaint, the ASA said consumers viewing the website “would be likely to understand the ad to be representative of a master’s-level postgraduate degree, awarded by an accredited higher education institution”.

But the school was unable to award such a qualification itself and instead students who completed the diploma had to complete a “top-up MBA course” with a different institution, which required them to earn further credits and pay a further fee, something the ASA said was not made sufficiently clear in the advert.

“The course listing did not feature any information communicating that the advertised service was a level 7 diploma rather than an MBA, or that an MBA could only be achieved by applying for and completing a further qualification independently at a different university,” its ruling said.

The title of the qualification and the various claims made in the advert were therefore considered to be misleading and breached the ASA’s code.

Attempts to amend the advert to make the situation clearer during the course of the ASA investigation were not sufficient to satisfy the watchdog, it said. A footnote was added stating that the LSPM course was the “first stage” of achieving an MBA, but this was “insufficiently prominent” and did not make it clear that an additional fee was required or that “stage two” was independent of the LSPM’s diploma.

The ASA ruled that “the ad must not appear again in its complained of or amended form” and that LSPM had been warned “their marketing communications must not misleadingly state or imply that they offered a Master of Business Administration (MBA)”.

In its response, LSPM was said to have “acknowledged certain elements of the ad lacked clarity and apologised for any confusion or misunderstanding that had arisen from it. They said they would take immediate steps to amend the ad.”

The school did not respond to further requests for comment.

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