Advertising watchdog pulls up 23 educational institutions for misleading ads

In May 2016, Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI)’s Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) upheld complaints against twenty-three different educational institutions for violating ‘ASCI Guidelines for Advertisement of Educational Institutions.’

1ASCI_380These institutions include not only private coaching classes but also online certification training providers, private educational societies, and a UGC recognised University. The upheld complaints relate to false claims regarding high rankings in competitive exams, high salary packages in placements, and claims of having the best faculty. Other complaints included unsubstantiated claims of providing hundred percent placement or being the best in their respective field.

The guidelines were issued by the ASCI after taking into consideration the high value that parents put on the education of their children and great personal sacrifices they make for ensuring it. The advertising content guidelines apply to ads of all educational institutions, coaching classes, and educational programmes.

The guideline, among other things, mandates institutions to not make claims regarding extent of batch placed, highest or average compensation of students placed, or marks and ranking of students passed out unless they are substantiated with evidence. They also forbid advertisements which lead the public to believe that enrolment in the institution will provide the student a job unless the advertiser is able to submit substantiation to such effect and also assume full responsibility of the same.

They further prohibit institutions and programs from claiming recognition, authorisation, accreditation, or affiliations without having proper evidence.

Against this context, the notification released by the ASCI on August 4, 2016 mentions that the CCC found following claims in the advertisements by 23 different educational institutions as not substantiated and, thus, violating the ASCI Guidelines for Advertising of Educational Institutions:

  • Apeejay Education Society: The advertisement’s claim, “Highest Salary 6.2 L & Avg Salary 3.6 L”, was not substantiated with evidence to prove that the students have availed the claimed salary packages.
  • Clat Forum: The advertisement’s claims, “Meet the toppers of CLAT”, “Neha Lodha” shown as “Clat ’15 Topper”, were false and were misleading by implication. As per data submitted by the complainant and information available in the Public domain, Akash Jain was the Clat ’15 Topper.
  • Simplilearn Solutions Pvt. Ltd. (Simplilearn.com): The advertisement’s claim, “World’s largest Professional Certifications Company” was not substantiated and was grossly misleading.
  • Aldine Ventures Pvt. Ltd. (Aldine CA): The advertisement’s claim, “study from India’s best final faculty” and “Study from India’s best CPT faculty”, were false and misleading. The advertisement contravened Guidelines for Advertising of Educational Institutions and Programs.  
  • Bhanwar Rathore Design Studio: The advertisement’s claims, “India’s No.1 Design Entrance Coaching Canter” and “Highest selection record from BRDS as compared to any coaching institute in India,” were not substantiated with authentic comparative data or with a third party certification. Such a comparative claims are not practically possible given the vast nature of the field of education and presence of a large number of institutes across India.  
  • Legal Edge Tutorials: The advertisement showcasing the comparative data of various criteria indicated, showing Legal Edge to be better than other similar institutes, is not substantiated and is misleading.  
  • Made Easy Institute (GATE, ESE & PSUs Exams): The advertisement’s claims, “India’s Best Institute for IES, GATE & PSUs”, “Crack in 1st attempt”, “ Best faculty”, “Best study material”, “Best results”, “Best pool of faculty in India”, “Best infrastructure & support”, “Maximum selections with toppers”, “The ONLY institute which has consistently produced Toppers in ESE, GATE and PSUs”, “The results in ESE 2015 4 streams 4 first ranks, 38 selections in top 10, 350 selections out of total 434 vacancies” and “The results in GATE 2016 1st Ranks in ME, EE, EC, CS, IN & PI, 53 selections in top 10, 96 selections in top20 & 368 selections in top 100”, were not substantiated with authentic evidence. There was no validation by an independent third party for the claims as well. Also, the claims were considered to be misleading by exaggeration 
  • Pratham Education (Crash Course Batch 2016): The advertisement’s claims, “6 All India Rank 1’s in Entrance Exam of 2015”, “Crash Course Batch 2016”, “AIR 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17 & 20 in Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies”, “AIR 1, 2,3,4,5,7,11, 13, 15, 16, 18 & 20 In IP University BBA Course”, “AIR 1 In IP B.Com”, “AIR 2,4,5,7,8,9,13,16,17,18,19 In Delhi University BBE Entrance in 2015”, “AIR 5,38,45 in IP BJMC & AIR 2,4,16,19 in Delhi University BMMMC Entrance in 2015”, “51 out of Top 100 Final selections in Delhi University BMS/BBA (FIA) Entrance in 2015”, “23 Final Selections in the Oberoi’s Entrance in 2015, were Pratham Students” and “37 Final selections in IN IIM Indore in 2015”, were not substantiated and were considered to be misleading by ambiguity and implication.
  • Rau’s IAS Study Circle: The advertisement’s claim, “8 in top 20”, “39 in top 100” and “396 Total Selections”, were not substantiated with supporting data and are misleading.

It further states that the complaints against advertisements of all educational institutes mentioned below were also upheld mostly because of unsubstantiated claims that they ‘provide 100% placement’ or because of their claims to be the ‘No.1 in their respective fields’:

Penguin School of Business Management (Lifetime 100% Job Guarantee), KL University, SCMS Group of Educational Institutions, Ucmas West Bengal, Apollo Engineering College, Bakliwal Tutorirals (IIT), Gurukul Institute (Personal Coaching for Spoken English), Amirta International Institute Of Hotel Management & Catering Technology (International University Diploma), Apeejay Education Society, Lloyd Business School, IMS-NOIDA (IMS Ghaziabad), United Group of Institutions (United Institute Of Management), Utkal University and New Delhi Institute Of Management.

EDULEGAL VIEW:

edulegal imageIn todays globalised and technology driven era, consumers are constantly bombarded with advertisements trying to promote different products. This promotion, although harmless when done judiciously, becomes damaging when it exploits the information asymmetry among the general public and misleads them.

Considering the significant role that education plays in the development of human capital of a nation, any misleading and deceptive information regarding the same can cause a substantial damage to the social and economic development of a country. It is therefore important that such unsubstantiated and misleading claims are dealt with promptly and sternly.

At present there is no central statutory agency or uniform legislation regulating the advertising industry in India. Therefore, a comprehensive law on advertising in all forms of media providing more clarity and acting as a one-stop window for all cases relating to advertising is highly desirable.

UGC asks colleges to submit online compliance of anti-ragging measures

UGC2Reiterating its tough stance on the issue of curbing the menace of ragging, the UGC recently released a notification asking colleges to submit an online report of compliance of Anti-ragging Regulations of 2009. It has further warned educational institutes of punitive action if they do not act in accordance with the Regulations or fail to take adequate steps to prevent ragging and punish perpetrators of incidents of ragging suitably.

‘Regulations on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutes, 2009’ were notified by the UGC in pursuance to the judgment of the Supreme Court of India in the University of Kerala v. the Council of Principals of Colleges in Kerala’.  These regulations are mandatory and apply to all Universities. Among other things, they require institutes to step up anti-ragging mechanism by adequately publicising its anti-ragging stance through various mediums, setting up of anti-ragging committee and squad, installing CCTV cameras at vital points, organizing workshops and seminars on eradication of ragging, and displaying anti-ragging posters at prominent places.

They further require colleges to have regular interaction and counselling with students, to mention anti-ragging warning in the institution’s prospectus and information booklet, and to hold surprise inspection of hostels and other premises vulnerable to ragging practices.

Against this background, UGC has requested universities to instruct all colleges under their purview to submit an online compliance of anti-ragging regulations. The notification also states that the National Anti-ragging Helpline has been set up for students in distress.

Citing the second amendment in the UGC regulations, the notification further makes it compulsory for each student and every parent to submit an online undertaking every academic year at www.antiragging.com and www.amanmovement.org. The expanded definition of ragging to include racial, ethnic and casteist remarks as broadened by the third amendment has also found its mention in the notice.

EduLegaL View:

edulegal imageConstant reiteration of anti-ragging policy is a necessary and a positive step against curbing the menace of ragging that has infected higher educational institutions in India for a long time. Eradicating this menace by creating awareness on its ill-effects can only be achieved with a sincere co-operation from institutions. Latest UGC notification requiring online submission of compliance report is a constructive step towards that goal.

Ravi Bhardwaj

Read other related stories:

Now, racial, ethnic and casteist remarks also ragging: UGC amends the Regulations

Racial and ethnic discrimination may be included under Ragging

Vocation degree (B. Voc) now at par with other Bachelor degree: UGC

UGC2In a step to further strengthen its commitment towards facilitating mobility between vocational and general education and developing a consistent and standardised framework for recognition of vocational degrees, the UGC recently released a notification allowing recognition of the B. Voc degree for competitive exams such as UPSC and Staff Selection Commission as well as for admission into trans-disciplinary programmes. The move intends to bring the B. Voc degree at par with other Bachelor level degrees.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has launched a scheme on skill development based higher education as part of college/university education, leading to Bachelor of Vocation (B.Voc.) Degree with multiple exit options such as Diploma/Advanced Diploma under the NSQF.  To this end, the B.Voc degree was specified by UGC under section 22(3) of UGC Act, 1956 and notified in official Gazette of India dated 19th January, 2013.

The notification mentions that B. Voc should be recognised “for competitive exams conducted by Union/State Public Service Commission, Staff Selection Commission or other such bodies where the eligibility criteria is “Bachelor Degree in any discipline.” It further states that “students with B.Voc. degree should be considered eligible for the transdisciplinary vertical mobility into such courses where entry qualification is a Bachelor Degree without specific requirement in a particular discipline.”

Edulegal View

edulegal imageThis is a welcome move by the UGC that will further open up various avenues and pathways to increase employability of candidates outside of conventional education, which, in turn, will contribute toward productivity at a national level to boost India’s competitive edge at a time when there is still a shortage of skilled manpower to address the increasing needs and demands of the economy.

No provisional Admission, in absence of affiliation, recognition: HC

 

                  “Orders permitting provisional admission of students imposing conditions such as making it clear to the students that against the refusal to grant extension of approval, the writ petition was pending and any admission made would be subject to the outcome of the petition and students shall not be entitled to claim any equity on the basis of the interim order, in my view, create a lot of uncertainty. It puts the career of students, who take provisional admission, at risk. The mere fact, that students are willing to take such a risk, does not justify putting them at such a crossroad unless the peculiar facts of the case warrant such an interim order.”

…. Delhi High Court

delhi high court1The Delhi High Court rejecting a prayer for Interim Stay on the NO ADMISSION Order by AICTE to a Delhi based Institution and also for allowing Provisional Admission subject to disposal of Writ Petition, has held that allowing Provisional Admission in absence of affiliation, recognition has cascading effect and may also lead to further litigation and harassment of students.

The High Court was hearing a Petition filed by Guru Teg Bahadur Institute of Technology and Guru Teg Bahadur Polytechnic Institute challenging letter by AICTE whereby these Institutes have been placed under NO ADMISSION category status for the academic year 2016-17 and the intake of students has been set to “zero”. The Petitioners were seeking ad-interim stay of the operation of the letter and a direction to AICTE to grant extension of approval for the academic session 2016-17 during pendency of the present petition. It was contended that because of the categorization as NO ADMISSION, grave prejudice and loss is being caused to the Petitioners. It was further contended that the Expert Visiting Committee had reported nil deficiency for the Petitioner Institute and despite that, the AICTE has placed the Petitioner Institute in NO ADMISSION category.

The petitioners eventually sought that admissions may be permitted to be made provisionally and subject to the outcome of the present petition and the concerned students would be put to notice, prior to admission, that the subject petition is pending and that the admission is subject to the outcome of the said petition. He further submits that the petitioners are willing to undertake that if the petitioners do not succeed in the present petition, they would have the students accommodated/adjusted in other colleges.

AICTE however, relied upon the Schedule laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in case of Parshavanath Charitable Trust, wherein it has laid down the time schedule for inspection, grant of approvals and admissions and specifically declared it to be the law and to be strictly adhered to by all concerned. It was submitted by AICTE that even if the petitioners remove all the deficiencies today, to the satisfaction of AICTE, AICTE can only grant an approval for the following academic session.

aicte_2AICTE also opposed the grant of provisional admission and argued that in case the Petitioner Institute was even provisionally permitted to take students, the entire exercise conducted by the UGC spanning over two months would be set to naught. The inclusion of seats of the Petitioner Institute in counseling, at this stage, would have a rippling effect where the candidates who have already taken admission may seek to take admission in the Petitioner Institute resulting in vacation of the seats that have already been allotted and further, the candidates in some other Institutes may then want to shift to the seats which fall vacant on account of shifting of the candidates to the Petitioner Institute. This, it is contended, would result in upsetting the entire process of counseling. The fresh process of counseling would take a considerable time to be completed.

The Court felt that granting an ad-interim stay of the impugned letters of AICTE would amount to stay of the direction of AICTE placing the petitioners 1 and 3 in NO ADMISSION category, which would imply that the petitioners would be permitted to admit students without there being any approval of AICTE or affiliation with the University or Technical Board, as the case may be.

The Court also observed that in case, the Petitioner Institute is provisionally permitted to admit students, the entire exercise of allocation of seats/counseling undertaken over a period of two months in various institutes would be set to naught. It would have a cascading effect of unsettling the entire allocation of seats and would disrupt the academic schedule. Further, in case the petitioner does not to succeed in the Writ Petition, the students admitted by interim orders, would have to be adjusted in different institutes in and around Delhi which may not be possible on account of unavailability of seats at that point of time and may also lead to litigation and harassment to students.

The Court also made following important observation on the concept of provisional admission:

“Orders permitting provisional admission of students imposing conditions such as making it clear to the students that against the refusal to grant extension of approval, the writ petition was pending and any admission made would be subject to the outcome of the petition and students shall not be entitled to claim any equity on the basis of the interim order, in my view, create a lot of uncertainty. It puts the career of students, who take provisional admission, at risk. The mere fact, that students are willing to take such a risk, does not justify putting them at such a crossroad unless the peculiar facts of the case warrant such an interim order.”

The Court eventually rejecting the prayer for Interim Relief and dismissed the Petition.

EduLegaL View:

No doubt the observations of the Court are appropriate, but there are many cases, where the authorities acting in adhoc and arbitrary manner deny the right to an Institution to admit students. We all know about such cases, and they are plenty in number.

The Institute then goes to Court, hires lawyer, attends hearing in anticipation of justice. As an Institute is made to suffer even in genuine cases, shouldn’t the concerned office or authority be also held accountable for acting in adhoc and careless manner.

There has to be balancing of roles. It is important to protect the rights of a students but is it also not right that only the Institution cannot keep suffering.

Ravi Bhardwaj

Read other related Judgements:

Granting Admission without affiliation has become disease leading to disaster: Supreme Court