UNAPSI aims to discourage misleading claims with Private Schools Advertising codes
Uganda National Association of Private Schools and Institutions (UNAPSI) is a representative body of independent private schools and educational institutions in Uganda. Private schools and educational institutions are regulated by Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES) through the private education department. UNAPSI' role among others includes the promotion, protection, representation and development of professional conduct of members and fostering ethical practice within the independent private education industry in Uganda.
Private schools need to be discouraged from using misleading advertising claims such as “guaranteed success in life”. “Worldwide accepted qualification” is another dubious statement that is outlawed under codes proposed by Uganda National Association of Private Schools and Institutions (UNAPSI). The codes introduce clear principles that schools have to stick to, and shows them how to properly attribute sources for statistics or research findings.
While many of the rules have been in use and implied for a while, they deserved to be spelt out explicitly in this Way. The main aim is to ensure that students and prospective students are given accurate information upon which they can make informed decisions. For example, knowingly publishing false or misleading adverts deserves punishment under Private Education laws. UNAPSI had noticed complaints and inquiries about private schools, most of them about unsubstantiated claims.
UNAPSI has consulted private schools, institutions and the public on the draft code and schools and students welcomed the move. Most schools are already complying with their standards, but the code is still an improvement. Having a clear code of conduct will enable consumers to make informed choices because far too often, students are misled by hearsay or incomplete information being presented. Quality is a key consideration in this decision-making process and it is not a decision that should be easily swayed by promotional gimmicks. What is in an ad should reflect what we can expect in a respective school and clear guidelines are important.
Many students form their first impression of the school based on the advertisements and sometimes play a big role in their decision to join schools. Since they rely a lot on the advertisements, they expect it to be reflecting the truth. The private schools advertising code will provide him greater certainty about the education students will be getting.
Advertisements must stick to Truthful representation, Substantiation, Integrity and responsibility, Fair competition, Observance of social values.
1. Definition of ‘Advertisement’
Advertisement; includes any notice, circular, pamphlet, brochure, prospectus, programme or other document, and any announcement, notification or intimation, to the public or any section thereof or to any person or persons, made —
(a) orally or in writing;
(b) by means of any poster, placard, notice or other document affixed, posted or displayed on any wall,
(c) billboard or hoarding or on any other object or thing;
(d) by means of sound broadcast, television, the Internet or other media; or
(e) in any other form or manner whatsoever…”
The law requires specifications on the location or sources of advertisements:
Advertisement; includes an advertisement that is made vailable —
(i) in a newspaper, magazine, journal or other periodical published or circulated in Uganda or elsewhere;
(ii) in a sound or television broadcast transmitted for reception in Uganda or elsewhere; or
(iii) by any other means of broadcasting or communication for circulation or reception in Uganda or elsewhere;
Therefore, an advertisement may be broadly described as any form of commercial communication a private school or institution uses to promote itself, its courses, and its services to students or prospective students, regardless of the medium and media used. This will include promotional claims made by the private school or Institution at the point of recruitment or enrolment of students.
2. The Intent and Scope of the Advertising Code
The Law requires the general disclosure requirements for Private Schools and institutions. An Advertisement issued by a Private School or Institution will be considered false or misleading if it
• falsely describes the Private Education Institution; or
• contains any false or misleading information about the Private Education Institution; or
• contains any false or misleading information about a course the Private Education Institution offers or provides; or
• does not contain the information in accordance to the requirements prescribed by the MOES in the Private Education Regulations.
To assist Private Education Institutions to comply with the Law and Regulations, the Advertising Code aims to clarify the legislative requirements which Private Education Institutions have to adhere to, so as not to be found misleading in their advertising and promotional activities.
This Code is applicable to all advertising efforts by Private Education Institution registered with the Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES) Private Education Department, whether the advertisements are published in Uganda or elsewhere. For the avoidance of doubt, the Code also applies to advertisements published by a Private Education Institution’ external recruitment agents for the purpose of recruiting students for the Private Education Institution.
II. GENERAL PRINCIPLES
1. A registered Private Education Institutions to conform to the prevailing standards of advertising and any relevant written laws in Uganda. When advertising overseas, the Private Education Institution also has to ensure that its advertisements comply with all the relevant rules in those countries.
2. The Advertising Code applies to all types of advertisements issued by Private Education Institutions. The Code aims to guide Private Education Institutions from misleading customers (specifically existing and prospective students) with ambiguous words and graphics and is drafted in line with the following principles:
a. Truthful representation: Advertisements must not contain false or misleading claims about the following:
i. the source or recognition of a course it is providing;
ii. the obligations of a student enrolling in the course;
iii. the research results or statistics published, such that they appear to have scientific basis or government support when that is not true.
b. Substantiation: The Private Education Institution must be able to provide documentary proof of the claims it makes in the advertisements when asked to do so (whether by the Private Education Department or students or members of the public). Minimally, the source from which the findings or statistics are obtained must be mentioned. To be credible, a Private Education Institution should also ensure that it quotes only sources of information that are valid and reputable.
c. Fair competition: While comparative advertisements are allowed, the contents must not discredit, denigrate, imitate, or exploit the goodwill of competitors, whether local or foreign.
d. Observance of social values: Advertisements must not subvert Uganda’s shared values or exploit conflicts relating to controversial national and international issues. They should also not contain words or pictures that are offensive to the standards of decency prevailing among existing and/or prospective local and international students. For example, advertisements are not to glorify a lifestyle that is promiscuous or is detrimental to family values.
e. Integrity and responsibility: Advertisements must not exploit prospective students’ lack of experience, expertise or knowledge. They must also not attempt to strain the students’ sense of loyalty, nor play on their fears or superstitions.
III. THE CODE
The Advertising Code for Private Education Institutions covers nine key aspects of a Private Education Institution’s advertisement, and complements the general disclosure requirements specified in the Private Education legislations. Instead of prescribing the format and content of advertisements, the Code establishes ground rules to ensure that there is responsible advertising, and that the contents are factually correct.
1. Reference to Uganda and the Private for Private Education
1.1 Usage of the term ‘Uganda’ and any word that connotes national authority
A Private Education Institution is prohibited from modifying its registered name by adding the word “Uganda” to it. If it wishes to denote its location, the Private Education Institution must state clearly that it is “located in Uganda”.
It cannot claim to be recognized by Uganda government or any of its ministries or statutory boards unless it is able to substantiate the claim with proper documentation from the relevant government agency. It must also not attempt to pass off as the national authority for any form of training or certification, or as the leading training organization for any group of professionals, without authorization from the relevant authority.
For example, sweeping statements like “EL Academy is the national training centre for English teachers” or “EL Academy certifies English teachers in Uganda” would be considered false and misleading, unless the Private Education Institution is able to provide evidence to convince the authorities that it is indeed so.
1.2 Relationship with the Private Education Department
A registered Private Education Institution can only use the term “registered” to describe its relationship with the Private Education Department in its advertisements or promotional materials.
For clarity, usage of the following (but not limited to) terms in place of the word ‘registered’ would be construed as misleading:
d. Authorized, or
1.3 Usage of the MOES Logo
A Private Education Institution is not allowed to use the MOES logo in its advertisement without first obtaining written permission from the MOES.
As a good practice, a Private Education Institution should avoid adopting the color scheme or general design of the MOES logo, as that may create the impression that it is related to the MOES.
2. Information about the private education institution
2.1 Registration and certification status
A registered Private Education Institution is to include all the following in its advertisements:
a. Its registered name;
b. Its registration number; and
c. The period of its registration (as stated in its registration certificate).
If the Private Education institution is specifically certified, it must also adhere to the terms and conditions governing the publication of that institution award status.
2.2 The Private Education Institution’s Logo
While UNAPSI does not specify the dimensions and format of a Private Education Institution’s logo in its advertisements, as a good practice, the Private Education Institution should ensure that its logo is:
a. Clearly and prominently displayed, so that prospective students would not mistake or confuse the Private Education Institution with its partners;
b. Not smaller than the logos of its partners; and
c. Not so similar to that of a renowned local or foreign institution or organization that it misleads prospective students into thinking that the Private Education institution is related to that institution or organization when that is not the case.
2.3 The Private Education Institution’s Achievements
As the law requires, it is mandatory for a Private Education Institution to provide truthful information about itself. As such, it has to be able to substantiate any claim of achievements with relevant and valid documentation.
Unsubstantiated statements may be construed as false and/or misleading if the Private Education institution is unable to convince the MOES of the statements’ factual basis. The following are some examples of unsubstantiated and misleading statements:
“Hi-Flyer Institute always produces the top students in higher levels examinations.”
“Hi-Flyer Institute has the best performance among all Private Education Institutions since its establishment.”
“Hi-Flyer Institute has the most number of students gaining entry into Uganda’s public universities.”
2.4 The Private Education Institution’s Partners
A Private Education Institution cannot make reference to, or use the names, initials, logos and/or trademarks of another organization or institution, unless it has valid, written permission from that organization or institution to do so. It must also state clearly and accurately the type of relationship it has with each of the organization or institution it chooses to highlight in its advertisements. For example:
“ABC University, UK, is offering the following programmes through XYZ Academy.”
“XYZ Academy is offering the following programmes awarded by ABC University, UK.”
“XYZ Academy has an articulation arrangement with ABC University, UK for students graduating from its Diploma in Business course.”
When it is not possible for a Private Education Institution to give full details of its relationship with a partner in its advertisement due to space constraints, the Private Education institution is to indicate a source, such as a link to the relevant page on its website, where interested students or members of the public can easily access and obtain truthful information. As a responsible practice, the source should not be one where prospective students can only get verbal, unrecorded information.
To strengthen and maintain its credibility, a Private Education Institution should only link up with institutions and/or accrediting agencies that are recognized by the relevant authorities in their respective home countries. A fit and proper Private Education Institution manager should ensure that the Private Education institution is not associated with degree mills or dubious organizations.
2.5 Photographs or pictures of Private Education Institution’s premises and facilities
The law requires the Private Education Institution to show accurate pictures of its premises and facilities. This means that the images used have to be up to date, as old or modified photographs will not accurately depict the Private Education Institution.
The Private Education Institution must also not show pictures of other institutions, either local or foreign, that would cause prospective students to assume that it has (additional) premises in Uganda and elsewhere, if it is not true.
In addition, if the Private Education institution is occupying a unit within a commercial building, it must not represent its school using the building’s photograph.
2.6 Photographs or pictures of students
As a good practice, a Private Education Institution should avoid using the photographs of its existing or former students unless it has obtained written permission from those students and/or their parents (where applicable).
3. Use of Information from external sources
3.1 Statistics and Survey Results
The MOES may ask a Private Education Institution to substantiate its claims and the sources of its published information. Where the data is gathered or derived by the Private Education Institution, it may be required to demonstrate the collection method(s) and calculation(s).
It is thus useful for the Private Education Institution to clearly specify the source of any statistics, survey or research findings referred to in its advertisement. For example:
“XYZ University is ranked Top 10 among National Universities” – ABC News Best Colleges 2010 ranking”
“100% students obtained at least 5 passes at UCE levels
The Private Education Institution manager should also exercise due diligence to ensure that only information from reputable sources are used.
The Private Education Institution must not publish any fictitious or false testimonials. As a good practice, any testimonial from existing or former students and/or students’ parents should be accompanied by the name of the student/parent, description of how the individual is related to the Private Education Institution, and the year (if not exact date) the testimonial was given.
To ascertain the truthfulness of the advertisement, the UNAPSI may ask the Private Education Institution to provide the contacts of such students or parents for verification. The Private Education Institution may also be asked to substantiate that those testimonials reflect the typical experience of its students/parents.
A Private Education Institution’s advertisements will be considered false and misleading if it gives the impression that the Private Education Institution has the support or endorsement of a public figure (i.e. politicians, celebrities, etc.) when it does not.
4. Information on course fees and other monies payable to the Private Education Institution
A Private Education Institution must ensure that it clearly specifies the following information on course fees:
a. the course to which the fees relate, including whether the fees are for part-time or full-time versions of the course;
b. Whether the fees cover the course in its entirety, e.g., examination fees, cost of lecture notes, laboratory usage fees, etc. Otherwise the costs of the additional components must be stated;
c. the validity period of the fees quoted;
d. the terms and conditions to which the published fees apply; for example, whether the fees quoted are only applicable to a student who has also signed up for another course or service provided by the Private Education Institution;
e. conditions and quantum of any discount offered, if applicable;
f. the currency in which the fees are quoted;
g. the applicable Goods and Services tax (“GST”), if applicable; and
h. Whether any specific payment mode is required.
The Private Education Institution needs to provide a prominently displayed link to the specific page on its website6 explaining the above information, if it is not feasible to do so in the advertisement due to space constraints.
5. Use of Superlatives and Exaggerated Claims
The following claims may be construed as false and/or misleading unless the Private Education Institution can provide credible supporting documentation to convince the authorities of the claims’ accuracy:
a. “Worldwide accepted qualification”
b. “Highly demanded graduates”
c. “World’s best lecturers”
d. “Best facilities in Uganda”
e. “Guaranteed success in life”
f. “Other Private Education Institutions cannot compare”
g. “The number one provider in preparatory courses”
h. “100% student satisfaction”
i. “Highest graduation rates in the whole of Uganda”
j. “Most demanded course in Uganda”
(Note: The above list is not exhaustive.)
6. Promises and Guarantees
A Private Education Institution must disclose the validity period and the terms and conditions associated to any promises or guarantees it extends to students. Any limitation to such promises or guarantees must also be spelt out clearly. Non-disclosure of pertinent information can be construed as intention to mislead.
6.1 Offer of “free” item or service
The word ‘free’ must not be used for an item or service which payment is only deferred.
To avoid future disputes, whenever an item or service is described as ‘free’, the Private Education Institution should endeavor to specify clearly, in a font and color not unlike the general contents of the advertisement, the period during which the ‘free’ promotion is applicable, any condition that must be met before the student or prospective student can enjoy the ‘free’ item or service, and any incidental costs involved.
6.2 Entry to local public schools
While a Private Education Institution may prepare students for the entrance or qualifying examinations, no Private Education Institution can guarantee entry into Uganda’s public institutions or autonomous universities. Private Education Institutions are strongly encouraged to make clear to students that entry into those institutions is subject to them meeting those institutions’ entry requirements.
6.3 Employment opportunities
As part of its student support services, a Private Education Institution may provide career guidance or mentor its graduating students in their submission of resumes to prospective employers. However, the Private Education Institution is not to provide, or advertise that it can provide, any employment opportunities or job placement services for a fee.
The Private Education Institution must also not attempt to entice prospective students with promises of salaries or allowances for trainees on work attachment. For courses with a work attachment component, the Private Education Institution is required to clearly state that job attachment for international students is not guaranteed and will be subject to approval of relevant passes by the Ministry of Labour.
6.4 Recognition of qualifications awarded
A Private Education Institution cannot make the general claim that the qualification it awards (in its own name) will be recognized by employers and/or any local or foreign education institutions or associations. It must specify the employer or institution that accords such recognition to its awards, and any related terms and conditions imposed for that recognition.
For example, if a Private Education Institution claims that graduates from Foreign International University’s Bachelor of Psychology will be recognized by the Foreign National Psychology Association, it must specify clearly whether that recognition is only restricted to graduates from that Foreign International University’s home campus (or will also be extended to graduates from the external degree programme).
6.5 Scholarships and grants
To enable students to make informed choices and to prevent future disputes, the eligibility requirements for scholarships and grants, as well as the conditions for accepting such financial plans from the Private Education Institution, should be specified clearly. The Private Education Institution should also state the penalties, if any, of any breach in the conditions for acceptance of those plans.
In addition, the Private Education Institution should also make clear to the student the currency and amount of the respective scholarship or grant prior to him/her accepting that scholarship or grant.
As a good practice, a Private Education Institution should specify the terms and conditions or the eligibility requirements for a prospective student to receive any gift or privilege. It should avoid using “bait and switch” advertising.
If, for example, a Private Education Institution states that the first 100 students are entitled to a free computer each, the authorities may require it to provide the names and personal details of the 100 students who had received the free computers, in order to ascertain the truthfulness of the Private Education Institution’s claims.
6.7 Student Passes
A Private Education Institution which is institution-certified may assist students to apply for student’s passes issued by the Immigration and Checkpoint Authority. However, it must communicate clearly to students that it can only provide assistance to submit the applications and that the granting of student’s passes is subject to Immigration Authority’s approval. The Private Education Institution is also required under the terms and conditions for the institution, to disclose any administrative fees it levies for providing this service in addition to the application fees charged by Immigration authority.
6.8 Deferment of National Service (for male local students only)
A Private Education Institution must state clearly that it can only provide assistance to apply for deferment of National Service, and such application is subject to approval by the Ministry of Defence. No Private Education Institution can guarantee deferment.
6.9 Hostel services
A Private Education Institution that offers hostel services must ensure that the details of the hostel are de-linked from advertisements about its course offerings. If the rental of the hostel is a pre-requisite for enrolment at the Private Education Institution, this information must be made clear to all prospective students prior to them signing the Student Contract with the Private Education Institution.
7. Use of Disclaimers
The Private Education Institution is to ensure that disclaimers are legible and can be easily understood by the target audience of its advertisements. Where a Private Education Institution reserves the right to withhold items a student has paid for, or defer the commencement of any class under certain circumstances, it must specify those circumstances under which such withholding or deferment would occur clearly.
8. Information on Courses
The code requires that any advertisement relating to a course must include the title of the course, the name of the course developer, the organization conferring the qualification, and the country of origin of the course developer.
8.1 Title of Course
The published title of a course must be the same as that permitted by the MOES. This will also include the qualification level of the course, such as certificate, diploma, graduate diploma, etc.
8.2 Course Developer or Qualification Awarding Body
If the name of the course developer or qualification awarding body is too lengthy to fit into a limit advertising space, the Private Education Institution is advised to consult the MOES on suitable abbreviations to use for the purpose of advertising before doing so. To avoid ambiguity, especially in instances where the abbreviations are similar to other organizations’, the country of origin of the course developer or qualification awarding body must be specified.
8.3 Course Details
A Private Education Institution is required to clearly state the following when advertising a course it offers, or intends to offer:
a)whether the course is offered on a part-time and/or full-time basis;
b) the total duration of the course;
c)the duration of each lesson;
d) the maximum allowed period for a student to complete the course, and whether a student who fails to complete the course within the maximum allowed period will be entitled to any recourse or refund;
e)the entry requirements of the course;
f) the delivery mode of the course;
g) the minimum number of students that is required before a class commences, the backup plan (in the event the class cannot commence due to low take up rate), and the waiting period (from the time a student signs up until the time a decision is made by the Private Education Institution whether or not the class will commence); and
h) The different types of fees payable by a student wishing to enroll in the course, and whether the registration/application fees will be refunded fully if the class does not commence.
A Private Education Institution may specify that the course would be taught by lecturers from the home campus of the university if it is indeed so. When providing the profiles of its teachers, the Private Education Institution may use academic titles, i.e., “Dr” or “Professor”, to address them only if they are qualified and/or have received the relevant authorization to hold those titles.
8.5 Examinations and Assessments
A Private Education Institution is not to claim that passing its examinations or assessments will enable a student to become “certified’ as a professional in any field unless it has been duly authorized by the relevant authority overseeing that specific industry to provide such courses.
8.6 Articulation Pathways
A Private Education Institution must state clearly the specific articulation pathway for each course, including the names of the universities the course articulates into, and whether those universities’ programmes will be conducted by the Private Education Institution (as external degree programmes) in Uganda, or will the students need to enroll at the universities’ home campuses if they proceed on the articulation pathway.
As a good practice, a Private Education Institution’s advertisements, especially those meant for younger or non-English speaking students, should be worded in simple (English) language so that it is easily comprehensible. It should not confuse the students with high sounding words, exaggerated descriptions, and scientific jargons.
IV. PENALTIES AND ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS
UNAPSI urges all Private Education Institution managers to exercise caution and make it a point to check the draft design and text of an advertisement before giving approval for the advertisement to be issued.
Issuing false or misleading advertisements may lead to serious consequences for the Private Education Institution and/or its managers. For example (but not limited to):
a. Any person found knowingly or recklessly issuing or publishing, or causing to issue or publish, any false or misleading advertisement about a Private Education Institution shall be guilty of an offence. If convicted, this person will be liable to a financial fine, or to imprisonment, or both;
b. The MOES may direct any person who has been found guilty of issuing any false or misleading advertisement to withdraw or amend the advertisement accordingly. A person who fails to comply with such directions from the MOES shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine of up to a financial fine, or to imprisonments, or to both; and
c. Any person convicted of using the MOES’ logo in order to deceive or cause confusion shall be liable to a monetary fine, or to imprisonment, or to both.
Email: email@example.com , firstname.lastname@example.org