The new advertising code for the education sector will come into force from December 1st this year. Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), the apex self-regulatory body for the advertising content of the Indian advertising industry, which had introduced the draft code two months back, has announced that the final set of guidelines is ready to be implemented across the country.
Notably, four sub-clauses introduced into the code are based on the feedback and inputs received from general public and educational institutions themselves. With the new code coming into force in less than two month’s time, advertisements of educational institutes, coaching classes and educational programs will now be governed by specific guidelines. The new guidelines can be accessed on ASCI’s website.
Some of the suggestions from masses are indicative of real life situations of misleading advertisements. Most of these include ads claiming a high ranking, impressive buildings and infrastructure, students’ testimonials and job placements.
Rajiv Dube, ASCI’s newly elected Chairman, said, “Education is a sector that is critical to the country’s future. We received a number of suggestions and inputs on the draft guidelines, largely from the citizens and institutes. Such a response reinforced the importance we placed on the education sector and the need to treat it as a special case. We now know that our belief is a major public concern as well, and sincerely hope that the code will reduce incidences of wrongful advertising in the education sector.”
Incorporating specific suggestions, the final code prohibits advertisements claiming comparative ranking of institutes without giving details of the ranking organisation and the date the ranking was published. Similarly, a new clause prohibits display of building or infrastructure from models and computer graphics, requiring institutions to show actual and existing facilities, if the facilities are shown in the ads.
ASCI’s new code also attempts to clamp down on misleading testimonials of students that may not even have been part of the educational programme, exam or subject. A new clause makes it mandatory for advertisements to give exact details of students giving testimonials. Similarly, the new code takes another technicality into consideration by asking advertisers to mention total number of students who passed out from the class, whenever they claim an absolute number of students placed in jobs.
In addition to the above, the final set of advertising guidelines for educational institutions, among other things, prohibit institutions and programs from claiming recognition, authorization, accreditation, or affiliations without providing proper evidence. The guidelines also require that the name and place of the affiliated institution which provides degrees and diplomas on behalf of the advertiser and which may not be accredited by a mandatory authority, to be prominently displayed in the ad.
With the new guidelines, educational institutions will not be able to promise jobs, admissions, job promotions, salary increase, etc. without substantiating such claims and also assuming full responsibility in the same advertisement. The proposed guidelines discourage institutions from claiming success in placements, student compensations, admission to renowned institutes, marks and rankings, and topper student testimonials unless every such claim is substantiated with evidence.
The education sector guidelines take note of the fact that a significant amount of advertising activity is currently happening in the education sector, reflecting the vast variety of educational programs being offered in the country. According to the recent ADEX report, advertising by educational institutions has gone up by leaps and bounds. Last year’s figures show that 8 per cent of all advertising expenses in print media came from the educational sector. This is a significant increase compared to just a few years ago.
In the recent past ASCI has put out specific guidelines for advertisements in the automobile and food and beverage sectors.