STUDENTS
05/02/2015 10:34 GMT | Updated 05/02/2015 10:59 GMT

New Universities Report By Which Claims Student Course Change Contracts 'Likely To Be Illegal'

Students from the LSE (London School of Economics) on Graduation Day outside the college in central London, 18/12/2007. Student university graduate graduating robe robes mortar board boards anonymous women girls men backs (Photo by Jeff Overs/BBC News & Current Affairs via Getty Images)
Jeff Overs via Getty Images
Students from the LSE (London School of Economics) on Graduation Day outside the college in central London, 18/12/2007. Student university graduate graduating robe robes mortar board boards anonymous women girls men backs (Photo by Jeff Overs/BBC News & Current Affairs via Getty Images)

Damning new evidence revealed today by a consumer research body has exposed alleged serious breaches of consumer law by UK universities.

Three in every 10 universities were found to be using "unfair terms" in contracts with students regarding changes to their courses after enrollment, considered bad practice and "likely to be illegal", according to Which?.

Universities UK hit back at the accusations, claiming student satisfaction had never been higher and was consulting with the Consumer Markets Authority on draft guidance to higher education institutions.

Freedom of Information requests responded to by 131 universities asked for documents explaining the university's right to vary courses once a student had already enrolled and paid up.

Of these, 40 were considered by Which to have 'bad practice' policies and eight in need of an improvement of terms.

Executive director of the consumer association, Richard Lloyd, said students deserved to know what they could expect from a course before forking out up to £9,000 - almost double that for some international students -so they could be confident knowing they will get what is advertised and paid for.

“It’s worrying to see such widespread use of unfair terms in university contracts," Lloyd said.

“With tuition fees higher than ever before, we want universities to take immediate action to give students the protection they’re entitled to.”

His comments were rebutted by Universities UK chief executive Nicola Dandridge, who cited the most recent National Student Survey figures as proof students were happy with what they were paying for.

"Universities frequently offer modules related to the research expertise of particular members of staff," she said.

"This is an important part of what is unique about the university experience, but does mean that modules offered may sometimes be subject to change.

"Universities need to clearly state to potential students when this is the case to allow them to make informed decisions."

Which? has encouraged education providers to ensure their terms comply with the law and for the higher education sector to consider a standard, consumer-friendly format for student contracts.