A web page entitled "About us" on the Ambition Institute website, www.ambition.org.uk, seen in March 2019, stated "We are a graduate school for teachers, school leaders and system leaders, serving children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our programmes support educators at every stage - from new teachers through to leaders of groups of schools - to keep getting better".
A web page entitled "Masters in Expert Teaching" stated "Join our Masters in Expert Teaching to set yourself on a path towards teaching expertise".
Two complainants, who understood that Ambition Institute did not have degree-awarding powers, challenged whether the claims "graduate school" and "Masters in Expert Teaching" were misleading and could be substantiated.
Ambition Institute said that the term “graduate school” was not a protected term, nor one that was defined specifically by, or implied, the holding of degree-awarding powers. They had never claimed to hold such powers. They believed nevertheless that they bore the mandate, purpose, hallmarks of quality, expertise and academic rigour that might be reasonably expected of an organisation using the term “graduate school”. They said that to their knowledge, their communications had never resulted in confusion among customers or participants in their programmes.
Ambition Institute was a registered charity offering post-graduate training and development programmes for educators. All but one of their programmes were exclusively available to qualified teachers, all of whom were graduates. Their courses included a number of nationally recognised postgraduate qualifications, including National Professional Qualifications (NPQs). Ambition Institute was licensed by the Department for Education to deliver NPQs independently, and in partnership with schools and trusts. Upon completion of an NPQ programme, participants were awarded a qualification by the Department for Education. They also offered a Level 7 qualification, the Masters in Expert Teaching, which was delivered in partnership with and awarded by Plymouth Marjon University. Plymouth Marjon was responsible for issuing the degree award certificates and accepted formal responsibility for the approval and review of the programme. Primary responsibility for the day-to-day delivery of the programme lay with Ambition Institute. Ambition Institute was currently working toward degree awarding powers. They were transparent about their partnership with Plymouth Marjon, including ensuring that their logo and agreed wording was present on the programme web page and marketing flyer. This presentation was in line with other providers of specialist degrees delivered by alternative providers. They acknowledged that at the time the ad was seen, the Plymouth Marjon logo did not appear on the website, because they had had to remove it for a few days while they negotiated their contract for the delivery of the Masters with Plymouth Marjon. However, following this short period, the logo had been appearing on the website.
Ambition Institute was formed after a merger between Ambition School Leadership and the Institute for Teaching. It was launched with the name “Ambition Institute” in March 2019. For two years prior to that, the Institute for Teaching had used the term “graduate school” widely across its external-facing communications and on its website, notwithstanding that it also did not hold degree awarding powers. The Institute for Teaching had to request authorisation to use the word “institute” (a protected term) within its trading name, and its request was accompanied by a letter of support from the Department of Education and expressions of support from figures across the education sector. Throughout the request, the Institute for Teaching referred to itself as a “graduate school”. They believed that in successfully applying for approval of the protected term “institute” in their name, they had also demonstrated that they met the standards of rigour that might be reasonably expected of an organisation using the term “graduate school”.
Ambition Institute said that their faculty was supported and challenged by an independent Academic Advisory Group. They also carried out research and insight activities, including in partnership with higher education institutions and think tanks. They said they had a strong working relationship with the University Council for the Education of Teachers and they were a member of Independent HE, a national representative body for independent providers of higher education and professional training.
The website provided information about a qualification entitled “Masters in Expert Teaching”. The ASA considered that people visiting the website would understand this to refer to a postgraduate degree awarded by an accredited higher education awarding body. We noted that students on the course were awarded a Masters degree by Plymouth Marjon University, which was an accredited university with degree-awarding powers. The Memorandum of agreement between Ambition Institute and Plymouth Marjon University, which was provided to the ASA, demonstrated that the University approved and held academic responsibility for the programme. We considered that Ambition Institute had substantiated that the award offered through their “Masters in Expert Teaching” programme was a Masters degree awarded by an accredited university, and therefore the claim “Masters in Expert Teaching” was not misleading.
The home page stated "We are a graduate school for teachers, school leaders and system leaders, serving children from disadvantaged backgrounds”. We considered that people visiting the website would be likely to understand “graduate school” to refer to an organisation which provided education to individuals who already held undergraduate degrees, resulting in the award of further qualifications at postgraduate level. We acknowledged that the term was often associated with departments within accredited universities, however, we understood that it did not have any official definition or protected status.
We noted that all but one of the qualifications offered by Ambition Institute required applicants to hold an undergraduate degree. These included NPQs, which were awarded by the Department for Education. As discussed above, one of Ambition Institute’s courses resulted in successful candidates being awarded a Masters degree by an accredited university. While we acknowledged that Ambition Institute did not have the power to award the Masters directly, we noted that it oversaw the teaching and administration of the course. We therefore considered that the claim “graduate school”, as those viewing the ad were likely to understand it, had also been substantiated and was not misleading.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation), but did not find it in breach.
No further action required.