The promise of education cannot be guaranteed
The University has a lot to offer students including access to the knowledge, skills and experience to build a future career. But great education services are no guarantee of future outcomes.
That’s why the University takes care to ensure accuracy in the way it represents its services. In fact, it has legal obligations under Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000 to ensure that the expectations promoted to students are accurate and realistic.
Students are consumers of goods and services produced by the University and have legal rights intended to ensure that they:
- Get what they reasonably expect
- Are not taken advantage of
- Receive fair terms in any agreed arrangement
- Are protected when the product or service does not meet the standard or quality promised.
In fact, these legal requirements apply to all of the products and services the University of Adelaide offers, sells or promotes.
When these obligations are not met, hefty financial penalties can be applied to the University and to individuals (maximum fines are $10 million and $500,000 respectively).
Getting the education promise right
The University should always strive to ensure that each individual student is able to make the most of the opportunities that an education can bring. But there can be no guarantees of a specific outcome or achievement and it is vital that what is promised accurately describes what the University is able to do.
This means that all University personnel must:
- Be vigilant and accurate in:
- The preparation and presentation of information (e.g. advertising, correspondence, emails, conversations, social media, negotiations and agreement preparation); and
- The expectations conveyed to prospective students.
- Be aware that under ACL:
- Disclaimers cannot be relied on to overcome any misleading impressions created,
- Silence or failure to clarify an arrangement can be considered misleading or deceptive, and
- Innocent mistakes, exaggerations or misprints will not diminish the rights of a student as a consumer of education services.
- Avoid statements of personal opinion which might be offered as friendly encouragement to a prospective student or business partner but may lead them to form an incorrect view about the outcome of an arrangement.
- Understand that ACL standards are also required by the Education Services for Overseas Students National Code 2018. It is a condition of the University’s accreditation, that all marketing and promotion materials (including where provided through education agents) complies with ACL.
For full details about ACL in a university context, refer to the Consumer and Competition Law Compliance Manual.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission also hosts an online training program comprised of 12 modules setting out the key features and rights and obligations under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth).
This is a revised version of a blog published in September 2018: Students have a lot to learn, but they are always right under Australian Consumer Law.